Heroin accused offered ‘nice stuff’ to officers, court told

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An alleged heroin dealer told undercover police officers in Belfast to ignore the “Russian stuff” and buy from him, the High Court has heard.

Francis Notarantonio sold the Class A drugs to officers posing as users three times in a week, prosecutors claimed.

The 31-year-old, of Elgin Street in the city, faces a total of 16 charges including possessing and being concerned in the supply of heroin and acquiring criminal property.

He is also accused of having a prohibited weapon, namely a stun gun allegedly seized during searches of his home while he was in Amsterdam.

Notarantonio was arrested in April following a four-month police operation targeting suspected heroin trade on the streets of Belfast.

Two officers had been briefed to familiarise themselves with the city and pretend to be drug users in a bid to identify dealers and gather evidence.

During a bail application on Wednesday prosecution counsel Fiona O’Kane claimed Notarantonio made contact with them while they deployed on Botanic Avenue in January.

The accused later sent a text saying he had “nice stuff” if the officers were looking for it, she alleged.

Wraps of heroin were then sold for £25 each on three separate dates, the court heard.

On the last occasion Notarantonio allegedly told the undercover officers he had just been to Dublin to stock up on drugs.

According to Mrs O’Kane he produced a large bundle containing at least 30 wraps.

With cameras used as part of the police operation, Mr Justice Maguire was told Notarantonio accepted supplying but tried to minimise his role.

He claimed his actions were only to help fund his own heroin addiction, the prosecutor said.

She added: “When it was put to him that he said things to police such as he had been dealing all morning, that he had replenished his supply down in Dublin, that the officers should come to him for the good stuff and that the Russian stuff was not good, he denied this and said the undercover officers were talking rubbish.”

Defence barrister Luke Curran said his client had been “at a low point in his life” and using heroin for almost a year.

But since going into custody Notarantonio has attending counselling and was attempting to end his addiction, the court heard.

Adjourning the bail application, Mr Justice Maguire said medical evidence of his efforts to get treatment must be produced.