Dublin taxi driver caught with €250k of cocaine gets second chance on TV cooking show

Stephen Boylan (53) served a four-and-a-half-years in prison after he was nabbed with the huge stash of coke.

Stephen Boylan

Stephen Boylan

Top chef Dylan McGrath (centre) with his quintet of cooks, including Sephen Boylan (far right)

Stephen and his fellow cooks

Eugene MastersonSunday World

A taxi driver who fell on hard times and was jailed after being caught storing €250,000 of cocaine has turned his life around after taking part in a TV show.

Stephen Boylan (53), was nabbed with the huge stash of coke when, after a tip-off, gardaí raided a shed he was living in Kill, Co. Kildare, in May 2020.

Dubliner Stephen, a separated father-of-two, was pressed for cash when Covid struck and was persuaded by drug dealers to store the cocaine in return for drips-and-drabs payments of €1,000.

Although such a major offence usually carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years, Stephen was handed down a four-and-a-half-year term given it was his first offence and he had co-operated with gardaí.

Following his conviction, he became a model prisoner in Cloverhill Prison and later at the open prison of Shelton Abbey, where he showed his prowess as a master baker and cook, making cakes and biscuits for officers as well as concocting tasty meals for fellow prisoners.

He became so highly regarded by prison bosses that when a new Virgin Media TV series featuring celebrity chef Dylan McGrath began its search for an inmate to join a quintet of marginalised and disadvantaged people, his name was put forward.

Viewers will now see Dubliner Stephen team up with Fiadhnait (24), who has Down’s Syndrome, settled Traveller Lisa Marie (18), Rosine (37), a refugee from Cameroon, and Luke (22), who has Asperger’s Syndrome and an intellectual disability, to join Dylan in the kitchen to learn culinary skills and also try out placements.

Producer/director Edel O’Brien says the original concept was to focus on charities and their work, but when she started researching them and saw that there was also a shortage of chefs in the hospitality sector, came up with the idea to merge them all together.

Top chef Dylan McGrath (centre) with his quintet of cooks, including Sephen Boylan (far right)

“We wanted to give people supported by Irish charities an opportunity to get work experience who would normally be overlooked by employers, despite the staffing crisis in the hospitality sector,” she tells the Sunday World.

“Through their participation we got to see the amazing work that the charities who support them do.

“Everyone deserves a chance and, in some cases, a second chance. I found Stephen through the prison service and Release (an organisation helping prisoners re-integrate into the community).

" I was looking for ex-offenders and I was dealing with Shelton – and they recommended Stephen. He is not from a criminal background, he is a person who made a mistake and never even had as much as a parking ticket.”

Stephen, who originally hails from Drimnagh, recalls leaving school after the Inter Cert, where he thrived at Home Economics – and cooking – and secured jobs in several bakeries over the years before going into the taxi business for two decades.

Stephen Boylan

Through contacts he had made as a taxi driver, he was asked to store a consignment of cocaine when he was out of work, and in a moment of madness stashed it in a garden shed he was living in at the time.

“It was just a f**k up, and that was it,” he says. “I hid it in the shed, somewhere I knew where it was. It wasn’t that large. I only had it for a very short amount of time.

When gardaí raided the shed he knew he was caught.

“Of course, I did. I had never seen a guard before in my life, only out on their bikes,” he reflects. “Basically, they asked me and I told them. There was no point in trying to hide it. I was guilty and that was it.

“In fairness, they were all fairly good to me. I haven’t really fallen out with anyone over this, which is great. I wasn’t driving around selling drugs or anything.

Stephen says he knew he was going to do time as gardaí and his solicitor warned him of the consequences.

He was initially sent to Cloverhill Prison in Dublin, where he went to the governor and told him of his skills as a baker and that he wanted some sort of job there.

“When I went into prison you either bury your head and do nothing, or work and make light of a bad thing,” he says.

“At the time I went in it was the Covid thing as well, so everything was restricted. I was on the pot-washing and then into the kitchen, before I got a job baking in the (officers’) mess after they got a coffee machine there, so I started baking cakes and biscuits and stuff like that.”

The officers thought he was so talented they got him extra supplies to make a variety of bakery products, which they paid cost price for and for which he earned €18 a week.

He was then transferred to Shelton Abbey, where he was a favourite with the wardens, as well as inmates, due to his culinary skills.

Stephen admits prison was “a shock to the system” and when approached to do the TV show decided to take part as “I thought it was a good story, like people being discriminated against and diversity and things like that.”

He loved working with Dylan McGrath and learning new skills, and thanks to the show and a placement with artisan bakery Bread 41 has now found full-time employment with them since his release last October.

“I worked my arse off in prison because I wanted to make a difference. I wasn’t just going to sit there and moan about it. I made a f**k up, I paid the price for it, I wanted to get on with it and I wanted to make something of it. Not just sit there. I did every course in that prison, from the Red Cross to everything, just to do something,” notes Stephen, who is now living in Inchicore.

He regrets storing the cocaine but maintains everyone makes mistakes.

“I have never taken a drug in my life bar a pint of Guinness, which you wouldn’t really call a drug. Never – I don’t even like taking Paracetamol,” he stresses.

“This has changed my life. I’m probably one of the very lucky ones. I have done the show, got a job out of doing the show, and basically showed people it can be done, so it’s worked out.”

  • Dylan McGrath’s Secret Service starts on Wednesday at 9pm on Virgin Media One.

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