Irish heist gang head Stefan Saunders nabbed at Heathrow suspected of staking out cargo plane
Interpol alerted gardai that Stefan Saunders and two criminal associates were suspected of carrying out surveillance of the cash transit plane
The leader of Ireland’s most prolific heist gang was stopped by UK police at Heathrow Airport who suspected him of watching a cash transit flight to Dublin.
Interpol alerted gardai in a criminal intelligence report that Stefan Saunders and two other criminal associates were suspected of carrying out surveillance of the cargo plane.
One of the men, convicted robber Damien Noonan, took a flight to Dublin to watch the plane from the departures area, according to the 2016 report.
Saunders and another man were spotted by police parked in a blacked out vehicle before being searched and questioned about their identity and reasons for being in the area.
Five months later, Saunders and Noonan were caught red-handed by gardai as they attempted to steal €2 million from a cash-in-transit van in Dunboyne, Co Meath.
Details of Saunders’ brush with the UK police emerged in a court document seen this week by the Sunday World as the Criminal Assets Bureau seek to seize two properties from Saunders and his wife Tammy.
The affidavit from a now retired Detective Garda also reveals the ‘trusted members’ of the organised crime group controlled by Saunders.
Tammy Saunders, whose maiden name in Gillard, is also described as “an active member” of the gang, whose main role is to launder their proceeds.
She has been twice arrested over the gang’s activities, including once in 2008 in connection with the 2005 robbery of €1.8 million from a Brinks Allied Security van.
=“Intelligence at the time indicated that she looked after communications for the OCG members while executing this crime,” the affidavit read.
The second time she was arrested was in February 2010 over a tiger kidnapping at Bath Avenue, Dublin in which relatives of a Brinks Allied employee were held hostage as he was sent to collect cash.
“Her involvement centred around the false registration of a vehicle used in the execution of the kidnapping and subsequent robbery of €134,000,” it said.
Tammy Saunders was never subjected to prosecution as a result of either arrest and has no convictions, it was stated.
While Stefan Saunders, along with another gang member Jeff Melvin, was charged and prosecuted, the case against him was eventually dropped after a search warrant used was deemed unconstitutional.
Melvin is described in the recent court document as “a trusted member of the Saunders OCG with a reputation for extreme violence.”
He was extradited from Spain in 2016 after four years on the run and got a ten-year sentence for conspiring to commit robbery.
Tammy Saunders’ uncle, Glen Cass (48), also known as Gillard, is also named as being a member of Saunders’ gang.
He was interviewed by gardai investigating the same 2010 robbery.
Cass had been active in the vigilante movement in the early 1990s and was a CAB target since 2008 over a tax fraud which was settled in 2018.
During this investigation the conveyance files for the two properties owned by the Saunders were seized, along with bank account details, and referred to CAB for investigation in 2016.
Damien Noonan is another “trusted member” of the gang who was caught in Dunboyne with Saunders and fellow gang member Francis Murphy as they were about to rob a cash transit van.
The three men dressed in spandex, tight clothing, snoods and were each wearing two pairs of latex gloves, it was heard at their criminal trial.
Saunders was armed with a pistol with eight blank rounds while Murphy had a crowbar.
They hid in a disused bank in Dunboyne after breaking the lock on the window and disabling the alarm.
They had bleach, which they sprayed across the room and a sheet to lie on as they waited for a G4S van. They all had walkie-talkies and carried mobile phones.
Noonan had dropped Saunders and Murphy off at the bank in the early hours and waited for them on the Main Street in Dunboyne in a stolen BMW X5.
The van and the ATM contained more than €2 million.
The heist had been planned for weeks but they were being watched by gardai and were arrested at gunpoint before the robbery happened.
Murphy had long- established criminal links to Saunders when the pair were arrested in 2006 for drugs and firearms offences.
The case against Saunders never went ahead but Murphy convicted and a got a ten-year suspended sentence.
As well as the tiger-kidnapping for which he escaped prosecution, Saunders is also stated to have been involved in an incident in 2005 in which two men forced entry into a Cabra house.
It was the home of the woman known to Saunders and during the incident two shots were fired.
Although Saunders was arrested, the injured party withdrew the complaint and no charges were brought against him.
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