Former Mint refinery operator sentenced to 30 months in prison

On Feb. 2, a former refinery operator of the Royal Canadian Mint was sentenced to 30 months in prison for stealing $165,000 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 between November 2014 and March 2015.


Last November, 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.

Lawrence, who worked for the Mint for seven years before he was fired in March 2015, made a brief statement before Ontario Justice Peter Doody on Feb. 2: “I’d just like to say thank you, sir, and that’s it. No further comment.”

This surveillance video shows Lawrence being searched by a guard with a hand-held wand at the Mint’s Ottawa facility in February 2015. (Supplied photo)

Justice Doody ruled a “penitentiary sentence is required to express the denunciation,” adding Lawrence had stolen 22 gold pucks worth a total of $165,451.14.

“While he was certainly in a position of trust which he breached, he was not a senior managerial official,” added Doody at the Feb. 2 sentencing hearing. “So this is a blue-collar theft, not a white-collar theft.”

Lawrence was also found guilty of breach of trust and money laundering. Once he is released from prison, he will have three years to repay the market value of the gold—a total of $190,000—or face another sentence.


At a hearing on Nov. 9, the court was told Lawrence activated the Mint’s archway metal detector, which all secure-area employees must pass through, 28 times from Dec. 15, 2014-March 2, 2015; however, he was cleared with a secondary search via a hand-held wand each time.

The searches failed to produce any stolen gold, although investigators eventually found in Lawrence’s work locker a container of vaseline, which prosecutors claimed was used to hide the gold within his anal cavity.

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