One of Ireland’s old-school gangsters has been jailed earlier for five years after being caught in an attempted €300,000 cigarette heist. Fran ‘The Lamb’ Cunningham rose to prominence for his smooth-talking over a long career as a professional con-artist. He pulled off various scams over the decades that have gone down in underworld folklore.
One story involves Fran the Lamb using a mobile phone before they were in widespread use to call shops who had just received a delivery of tobacco. Keeping a watch on the shop he knew when the delivery had been made and then would immediately ring sounding panicked, urging the shop-keeper not to put the cigarettes on sale because duty had not been paid and they were sent by accident. He explained that a van would be arriving immediately to collect the batch at which point Fran’s buddies would load up the ciggies for re-sale elsewhere.
But his legendary slickness didn’t work during last heist in which a cargo of cigarettes was targeted by thieves in March 2007. The jail sentence means that the 63-year-old con-artist will hit pension age behind bars. Driving in convoy with a van which had been loaded with the haul Cunningham suddenly found himself being arrested at gunpoint as gardai pounced. During the court case it emerged how the delivery van crew were held up at gunpoint and forced transferred the cigarettes to another van.
He denied have anything to do with the robbery or the false imprisonment of the delivery van crew. He claimed that he had simply been doing a friend a favour by giving directions and driving in front of the van loaded with the stolen goods.
“I’m a bit too old for that. It has nothing to do with me,” he told the jury.
Although acquitted of a false imprisonment charge and one of possessing a gun, the jury found him guilty of theft last February. Judge Donagh McDonagh said the incident was a “well planned and thought out operation” and Cunningham’s actions could not be interpreted as innocent. In true old-school criminal style Cunningham was of no assistance to the gardai in the course of seven interviews after his arrest.
Judge McDonagh imposed a seven year sentence and suspended the final two years. He also imposed a 10 year driving ban.
Fran the Lamb has been a close associate of many of Ireland’s biggest underworld names. He was once a close friend to both John ‘The Coach’ Traynor and infamous drug baron John Gilligan. Another associate was Sean ‘The Fixer’ Fitzgerald and Martin ‘ The Viper’ Foley. He specialised in cashing in stolen bank drafts and travellers cheque stolen in bank heists.
Monday, 24 September 2020
Friday, 21 September 2020
Bankers working for AIB were treated to junkets around the world by a man now accused of master-minding a €920 million fraud against the bank. Kallakis and his partner Alexander Williams deny 23 charges of fraud and money laundering linked to deals made between 2003 and 2008. The trial continues at Southwark Crown. Court report here.
Tuesday, 18 September 2020
Mr Justice Hogan's full judgement.
Friday, 14 September 2020
The Irish Central Bank is warning potential investors about six firms trying to flog products in Ireland despite not being licensed to do so. Fraudsters trying to sell dodgy products usually hit people whose names have been culled from shareholder registers and from sucker-lists which are sold between the con-artists. Remember if you have been approached, don't fall the line that you made a verbal agreement which is legally binding. Read the Central banks press release here and previous posts on Boiler Rooms here.
Friday, 7 September 2020
Barrister Patrick Russell who failed to pay off tax bills on behalf of his clients, appears to have paid €290,000 to dodgy developer Tom McFeely. Russell, since struck off, had set himself up as a tax consultant. However, according to today's Indo (read here), he handed over cash from one client directly to McFeely's company instead of to the Revenue Commissioners. Russell is now believed to be in the UK and is thought to have left his clients high and dry to the tune of €15 million. Meanwhile McFeely had his mansion re-possessed by Nama while the residents of the sub-standard Priory Hall complex which he built remain homeless. It's amazing how trouble finds trouble.