The Pattaya Provincial Court handed down a death sentence to the Australian man accused of masterminding the killing of a former gang rival 15 months ago.
Antonio Bagnato, 26, led of a gang of five foreigners to kill Australian Hells Angels member Wayne Rodney Schneider, 37, after abducting him from a rented Jomtien Park Villas home Nov. 30, 2015. Police found the body two days later buried on the side of Wihan Sian-Khao Cheechan Road in Sattahip’s Najomtien District.
Bagnato was sentenced to death by the court in a ruling confirmed Feb. 7. He is expected to appeal.
Also convicted in the scheme was then-21-year-old American Tyler Joseph Fulton Sheen Gerard, who was captured Dec. 2 that year at an immigration checkpoint in Sa Kaeo Province while trying to cross into Cambodia. Under questioning in Pattaya, Gerard confessed to driving the rented Toyota Vigo pickup truck used in the crime.
He was sentenced to just four years in prison as judges believed he was coerced into participating.
Three others remain at large for the killing: American Issac Jones Stetson and Australians Amad “Jay” Malkoun and Mitchell Paul Copeland.
Malkoun, who claimed to have slept through the 5 a.m. adduction of his roommate at gunpoint, was allowed to leave Thailand two days after the killing. Police said that, at the time, they had no evidence to hold him, although blood and bullet casings were found at the house.
Also arrested and later released without charge was Bagnato’s wife, Siraphat Saimat, 25, who police said rented the white Toyota used to transport Schneider’s body from a dealer on Soi Xzyte off Third Road. Police believed her assertion that she had no knowledge of the kidnap or murder plots, even though she admitted her husband made her erase any text messages and call logs related to the truck hire.
The truck would prove to be a key to cracking the case. Police used information from the rental vehicle’s GPS tracker to determine it had been parked at the Khao Cheechan burial site for two hours at 7 a.m., two hours after the kidnapping. Investigators used the coordinates to find Schneider’s naked body buried 1.8 meters deep. He died of an apparent broken neck.
The truck later was recovered at an apartment on Soi Kasetsin 5, which led investigators to another unit on Pratamnak Soi 6 where they determined Schneider had been beaten to death.
Schneider, Bagnato and Malkoun shared more than a house: All three were motorcycle gang members in Australia with Bagnato, a featherweight Muay Thai boxer, and Schneider joining up to run a boxing gym in Sydney.
Police said the killing was came after Bagnato, Schneider’s former bodyguard, left the Hells Angels and started his own gang called St. Michael’s. The rivalry escalated into violence and Bagnato recruited several fellow bikers to help him kill Schneider.
According to Australian press reports, the three also were connected through a long-running drug trafficking business. Bagnato was wanted on drug charges while Malkoun served time in the 1990s for heroin trafficking and was implicated in two other drug investigations.
Schneider came to Thailand on Makloun’s invitation after earning a windfall from a European drug network. Bagnato already had at least two residences in Thailand.
After the killing, Bagnato fled to Phnom Penh where he was captured at a hotel on Dec. 4, 2015. He was deported and charged with not only murder and kidnapping, but possession of a cache of illegal and military-grade weapons.