TORONTO – A man who stole gold “pucks” from the Royal Canadian Mint by hiding them in his rectum to evade metal detectors has been convicted of theft.
In his written reasons, Ontario court judge Peter Doody noted the case against Leston Lawrence was circumstantial.
“Nobody testified that they saw him take the gold,” the Ottawa judge wrote. “Nor is there a video of him taking it.”
Lawrence worked at the mint from 2008 until March 2015. His job required him to purify gold the mint had bought. The process involved creating the pucks. Court heard that he sometimes worked alone and out of sight of security cameras.
In February 2015, a bank employee became suspicious after Lawrence asked to cash two cheques worth $15,200 from Ottawa Gold Buyers. When she asked what the money was for, he told her he had sold “gold nuggets,” according to court records. The bank then notified police, who put him under surveillance.
Officers soon seized a gold puck Lawrence had sold to a business, Ottawa Gold Buyers. They also found four others in his safety deposit box. All five were almost pure gold and of identical size to mint pucks. They charged him with five offences, including theft.
The prosecution alleged Lawrence kept some of his loot at home and sold the rest, using the proceeds to build a house in Jamaica and buy a boat in Florida.
The defence argued that it was not definite that the seized pucks were identical to ones created at the mint and were therefore stolen. Doody was having none of it.
“There is only one conclusion that can be reached when the totality of the evidence is considered — that Lester Lawrence secreted gold pucks out of the mint,” Doody said.
Evidence was that employees had to leave a secure area through metal detectors of the kind found in airports. If triggered, employees were sent for hand-wanding, but those devices, tests showed, were not sensitive enough to detect metal hidden in a body cavity.
Lawrence set off the metal detector more often than any other mint employee without metal implants, Doody noted.
“The defendant was allowed to leave after failing the archway metal detectors when the hand wands did not detect metal on his person,” Doody said.
Lawrence also kept Vaseline and latex gloves in his locker which “could have been used to facilitate insertion of gold items inside his rectum,” the judge found.
In all, Doody decided Lawrence had stolen 22 gold pucks from the mint worth $165,451.14.
The judge convicted him of theft over $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime, smuggling gold from the mint, laundering proceeds of crime and breach of trust by a public official.