In September we reported that an employee of the Royal Canadian Mint smuggled C$180,000 (USD $140,000) in gold from the fortress-like facility, evading multiple levels of detection with a time-honoured prison trick: hiding the precious metal up his butt.
Having been found guilty in November ("wait, what gold coins, where?"), 35-year-old Leston Lawrence was sentenced to 30 months in prison today, by a judge whose name was 'Doody'.
As we detailed previously, a suspicious bank teller raised the alarm in 2015. Lawrence sold 18 gold pucks — each a circular 7.4-ounce nugget worth about $6,800 — to an Ottawa Gold Buyers store between Nov. 27, 2014, and March 12, 2015, according to court records obtained by the Toronto Sun. Three observations tipped off the bank teller: Lawrence was a mint employee, he had an unusual number of deposits and he frequently requested overseas transactions.
Furthermore, as the OC reports, the case is "an illuminating look at security measures inside the Mint, the building on Sussex Drive that produces hundreds of millions of gold coins annually for the federal Crown corporation." Or rather lack thereof.
The defense was not happy: “Appalling,” was the conclusion of defence lawyer Gary Barnes, who described the Crown’s case as an underwhelming collection of circumstantial evidence. “This is the Royal Canadian Mint, your Honour, and one would think they should have the highest security measures imaginable,” Barnes said in his closing submission. “And here the gold is left sitting around in open buckets.”
He is right, and perhaps anyone who keeps their gold at the mint may want to reconsider the venue of storage.
Court was further told that, on multiple occasions, Lawrence took small circular chunks of gold - or “pucks” - to Ottawa Gold Buyers in the Westgate Shopping Centre on Carling Avenue. Typically, the pucks weighed about 210 grams, or 7.4 ounces, for which he was given cheques in the $6,800 range, depending on fluctuating gold prices, court heard. He then deposited the cheques at the Royal Bank in the same mall.
One day a teller became suspicious at the size and number of Ottawa Gold Buyers cheques being deposited and Lawrence’s request to wire money out of the country. She then noticed on his account profile that he worked at the Mint. The first red flag was up. Bank security was alerted, then the RCMP, which began to investigate. Eventually, a search warrant was obtained and four Mint-style pucks were found in Lawrence’s safety deposit box, court heard.
Records revealed 18 pucks had been sold between Nov. 27, 2014 and March 12, 2015. Together with dozens of gold coins that were redeemed, the total value of the suspected theft was conservatively estimated at C$179,015.
That said, the defence countered with a couple of important points. The Crown was not able to prove conclusively that the gold in Lawrence’s possession actually came from inside the Mint. It had no markings nor, apparently, had any gold been reported missing internally. The Crown was able to show the pucks precisely fit the Mint’s custom “dipping spoon” made in-house — not available commercially — that is used to scoop molten gold during the production process.
Still, one question remained unanswered at the trial: how did the gold get out of the Mint?
The court was told Lawrence set off the metal detector at an exit from the “secure area” with more frequency than any other employee — save those with metal medical implants. When that happened, the procedure was to do a manual search with a hand-held wand, a search that he always passed. (It was not uncommon for employees to set off the detector, court heard.)
Investigators also found a container of vaseline in his locker and the trial was presented with the prospect that a puck could be concealed in an anal cavity and not be detected by the wand. In preparation for these proceedings, in fact, a security employee actually tested the idea, Barnes said.
As a result, prosecutors alleged that Lawrence smuggled out gold nuggets inside his rectum.
And now, almost 2 years later, as AP reports, the former Royal Canadian Mint employee who stole 22 cookie-sized pieces of refined gold by hiding them in his rectum has been sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Thirty-five-year-old Leston Lawrence was found guilty last November of stealing the pieces from the mint and selling 17 of them through Ottawa Gold Buyers.
Ontario Court judge Peter Doody on Thursday sentenced Lawrence and ordered him to pay a fine of US$145,900 (CA$190,000).
Doody says the stolen gold was worth US$127,116.11 (CA$165,451.14) which Lawrence sent abroad to build a house in Jamaica and buy a boat in Florida, among other transactions.
Court testimony indicated that Lawrence was involved in purifying recently procured gold and sometimes worked alone, out of sight of security cameras.
The Royal Canadian Mint has announced intentions to improve their security in the wake of the crime:
"upgrades to our facility's security checkpoint and screening process; upgrades to our camera system to high definition which provides real-time monitoring capability in all areas of the mint; and working closely with CATSA [Canadian Air Transport Security Authority] to establish more robust scanning training of our employees."
"The mint is one of the most secure facilities in Canada and we are confident that we have the right security measures in place to effectively operate our business,"
The mint did not comment as to whether or not employees will now face rectal-cavity searches.
Maybe those cryptocurrency types are right - hording gold is a pain in the ass.