Two houses, including a former rental property, businesses and expensive cars, of a convicted criminal and his wife have been declared the proceeds of crime by the High Court.
Stefan Saunders (45) of Carranstown, Drogheda Road, Duleek, Co Meath, was jailed in 2018 for 7½ years after gardaí foiled a cash-in-transit armed robbery in 2016.
He is also suspected by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) of being involved in the €1.8 million Brinks Allied security van robbery in Artane, Dublin, in 2005.
The judge found the proceeds of crime were used to buy a home in Hazelbury Park, Dublin 15, and a second buy-to-rent property at Mayeston Lawn, Finglas, Dublin, as well as to fund a number of businesses and to buy expensive cars, including a €98,000 BMW X5.
The couple spent some €120,000 on extending Hazelbury, which included expensive sanitary ware, furnishings, projector screens and a Jacuzzi, the court heard.
Mr Justice Alexander Owens was satisfied the man was a member of a gang of robbers who funded a “spending spree” on these assets by himself and his wife, Tammy Saunders (40), between 2005 and 2008.
He said that between 2003 and 2006, the couple had “access to amounts of money grossly out of kilter with possible sources of legitimate earnings”.
The “spending spree”, which included the extensive renovation of the two properties, came from funds which cannot be explained except by reference to access to proceeds of crime, he said.
Stefan, who said he worked as a plasterer, and Tammy, who drew a salary from an interior decoration business they owned, denied the assets were the proceeds of crime. The got into financial difficulties in 2010 and later entered into a personal insolvency arrangement which led to the sale of the buy-to-rent property.
The judge said their evidence as to the source of their money was “general and unconvincing”.
Their affidavit evidence did not engage with the details of evidence presented of criminal activities by Stefan or with the details of evidence from the Cab which sought the proceeds of crime order.
The judge accepted the conclusion of a Cab forensic accountant that their expenditure did not square with their identified legitimate sources of income. The spending spree was not capable of being explained away as a mixture of legitimate earnings from businesses or employments and easy access to cheap sources of credit, he said.
Evidence established that other factors were in play, he said.
After the Brinks Allied robbery, four unregistered burner mobile phones used in the robbery were found, one of which was in contact with a former girlfriend of Stefan. Documents from a motorcycle imported and used by Stefan, but registered to another man, were found in a search of Hazelbury Park.
“Evidence of the subsequent criminal career of Stefan Saunders leads to the unavoidable conclusion that his association with the Brinks Allied robbery in Artane cannot be explained away as unfortunate coincidence”, he said.
In January 2010, he was linked to a tiger kidnapping of a cash-in-transit van employee in Dublin through a vehicle used to hold the victim which he owned.
He was also caught by gardaí in suspicious circumstances, once outside the home of a bank manager in Bray, and on another occasion in a vehicle with burglary implements. He was also spotted at Heathrow airport in May 2016 in a blacked-out vehicle parked near a cargo plane used to transit cash.
In October 2016, he was caught with two others during an attempted ATM cash-in-transit van robbery in Dunboyne, Co Meath, for which he received 7½ years imprisonment.
The judge said “money from unidentified sources” was used to provide working capital for the interior decoration business Tammy worked in, U Design of Berkeley Road, Dublin, which was established in June 2005.
Money from unidentified sources was used to open and operate hair salons in Berkeley Road and in Meakstown, near Finglas, he said.
Cash from unidentified sources was used to renovate a house owned by Tammy’s mother and her partner in 2006.
The source of €17,500 bail money which Tammy’s mother put up in November 2006 for Stefan, who was before the courts on a drugs charge which was later dropped, was also unidentified.