Former Mint refinery operator stuck with five charges following ongoing theft

A now-terminated employee of the Royal Canadian Mint was convicted of theft and money laundering yesterday after a judge ruled the former employee stole $162,000 worth of gold from the Crown corporation’s Ottawa facility.

The controversial inside job made international headlines when prosecutors claimed the accused—35-year-old Barrhaven resident Leston Lawrence—thwarted several layers of security by hiding gold pucks (worth about $6,800 each) inside his anal cavity. The court was told Lawrence brought small, circular chunks of gold, each weighing 210 grams, to Ottawa Gold Buyers in the Westgate Shopping Centre. Records revealed 18 pucks were sold from November 2014-March 2015; combined with dozens of gold coins that were also sold by Lawrence, investigators originally believed Lawrence stole $179,015 worth of gold.

On Nov. 9, Ontario Justice Peter Doody agreed with the Crown’s theory, which suggested Lawrence smuggled 22 gold pucks in his body cavity to evade the facility’s metal detectors.

“In my view, there is only one conclusion that can be reached when the totality of the evidence is considered: that Leston Lawrence secreted gold pucks out of the Mint,” said Doody during his hour-long ruling on Nov. 9. “The evidence from the records of the archway metal detectors is consistent with the defendant having regularly secreted gold in his rectum.”

Lawrence is slated to return to court for sentencing on Nov. 28.

Crown attorney David Friesen said he would be seeking jail time as well as the forfeiture of assets purchased by Lawrence with money from the stolen gold.

METAL DETECTOR

On Nov. 9, the court was told Lawrence activated the Mint’s archway metal detector, which all of the Mint’s secure-area employees must pass through, 28 times between Dec. 15, 2014 and March 2, 2015—a period of 41 days—however, he was cleared with a secondary search via a hand-held wand each time. The searches never produced any stolen gold, although investigators eventually found a container of vaseline, which prosecutors claimed was used to hide the gold within the accused’s anal cavity, in Lawrence’s work locker.

But it wasn’t the Mint that discovered the alleged theft; it was a Royal Bank teller, who was alarmed by the frequent sizeable deposits and Lawrence’s desire to wire the money outside of Canada. The teller, whose bank is also located at the Westgate Shopping Centre, noticed Lawrence’s place of employment listed as the Mint and notified Royal Bank security; soon after, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police began an investigation.

Prosectors also said Lawrence was arranging to build a home in Kingston, Jamaica, as well as purchase a boat worth nearly $50,000 USD from Florida.

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