LONDON (AP) — A British man nicknamed "Fast Eddie" after brazenly driving off with an armored van full of banknotes and coins was sentenced Tuesday in London to five years in jail following nearly two decades hiding out in the U.S.
Edward J. Maher was working as a guard for a security company in 1993 when authorities say he took off with the van as a colleague was making a bank delivery. While the abandoned vehicle was later discovered, its booty of about 30 bags containing some $1.5 million worth of coins and notes was gone — and so was Maher.
British media breathlessly covered the search for the man they dubbed "Fast Eddie" in the days after the heist. The trail went cold, until he was arrested in Missouri on a tip some two decades later.
After initially denying the theft, Maher entered a last-minute guilty plea at London's Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday.
Det. Inspector David Giles said that while Maher had insisted he was forced to carry out the crime and had only made a small amount of money off the heist, he had never put forward a credible story.
"We have succeeded in proving that he profited substantially from the theft and was a key player in the planning and execution of it," Giles said outside the court Tuesday. "Since his arrest, he has displayed no remorse for what he did — but I get the impression he has spent 20 years looking over his shoulder and hoping the law would not catch up with him."
After the heist, a reward was offered for Maher and there were reported sightings of him across Europe, but his trail eventually went cold.
At some point, Maher and his family fled to the U.S., where he often used a brother's name or the alias Stephen King. They made frequent — sometimes cross-country — moves, and Maher spent several years working for Nielsen Media Research, first in Philadelphia, then in Milwaukee and St. Paul, Minnesota.
Sometime in 2008, Maher and his family moved to the small town of Ozark, Missouri. Authorities said he was living there under his brother's name and working as a cable technician when he was arrested in February 2012 on a tip from Maher's estranged daughter-in-law.
While in custody on federal charges of aggravated identity theft, document fraud and firearms violations, Maher agreed to be sent back to Britain to face charges in relation to the robbery.
Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd