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1990: £292m City bonds robbery
At 9.30am on May 2 1990, John Goddard, a 58-year-old messenger with the money broker Sheppards, was mugged at knifepoint on a quiet sidestreet in the City of London.
Goddard was taking Bank of England Treasury bills and certificates of deposit from banks and building societies. The bonds were in bearer form and as good as cash to anyone holding them.
The mugger escaped with 301 Treasury bills and certificates of deposit, mostly for £1m each, and the total haul was £292m.
Keith Cheeseman received a six and a half-year jail sentence for his part in the robbery. Four other people in Britain were charged with handling the bonds, but were acquitted after the highly unusual step of offering no evidence was taken at was taken at the opening of their 1991 trials.
Police believed the City mugging was carried out by Patrick Thomas, a petty crook from south London. This is also what petty thief Johnny Tippett says in his autobiography that he met Thomas shortly after the robbery and Thomas showed him the bonds. His story is that Thomas had been elevated into bigger international crime gangs and did the job on the behest of one of those as being a lower echelon criminal it would appear to the police as a chance mugging if he was caught. Thomas, who was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head in December 1991, was never charged with the robbery. His death has been linked to his liking for cocaine and the his inability to keep his mouth shut. The rumour mill was rife and suggests a City futures dealer who passed insider information out to fraud a gang in Ireland was involved and with Thomas getting more and more ‘big headed’ about his part and talking about it as he spent an awful lot of money the police were getting very interested. He was found in his south London home with a gunshot to the head. The bonds started turning up in the USA being hawked around by known fraudster Keith Cheeseman which brought the attention of the FBI to case in conjunction with the Met. Cheeseman had a varied con man career once buying football club Dunstable Town FC with the proceeds of a previous fraud. The club was forced into liquidation in 1977.
City of London police and the FBI had infiltrated the gang involved in laundering the bonds. Cheeseman was trapped in the USA by the FBI with fellow fraudster Mark Lee Osborne a Texan businessman who had tried to sell some of the London bonds to undercover officers posing as Mafia buyers. Cheeseman fled to Tenerife where he was arrested and sent back to the USA. He said he had fled in fear as he had been told there was a Mafia contract out on him. He could be right as Osborne’s body was found in the boot of a car in Houston, Texas with two bullets in his head. The police recovered all but two of the 301 bonds thanks to an informant which it is alleged could have been Osborne after a ‘deal’. Cheeseman had a failed attempt in the past to defraud a city company of £8m by seducing Elaine Borg, a computer supervisor at the company and persuading her to transfer £8 of client’s money to an offshore account. City of London Fraud Squad were watching and although Cheeseman avoided arrest Borg didn’t and got 18months suspended.