OTTAWA – A man who stole gold “pucks” from the Royal Canadian Mint by hiding them in his rectum to evade metal detectors has been sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Leston Lawrence, 35, was convicted of theft in November by Ontario Court judge Peter Doody, who noted in his ruling the case was based on circumstantial evidence.
The judge said a penitentiary term was needed to deter others; Lawrence’s lawyer had argued for an 18-month sentence.
“While he was certainly in a position of trust which he breached, he was not a senior managerial official,” Doody ruled. “So, this is a blue-collar theft, not a white-collar theft.”
Doody ordered Lawrence to pay $190,000 in restitution. He has three years from the end of his full sentence to pay it, and if he doesn’t, he could be re-incarcerated for another 30 months.
Lawrence has already tried to raise money and will soon be coming into $20,000 from the sale of his home. He has also tried to recoup money he spent towards buying a boat in Florida and a house in Jamaica, court was told.
At trial, Doody noted there was no video of Lawrence stealing the gold and no witnesses.
Court heard that Lawrence, whose job at the mint involved purifying recently procured gold, sometimes worked alone and out of sight of security cameras in a process that involved creating the pucks.
He worked at the mint from 2008 until March 2015.
Lawrence aroused suspicion in a bank employee in February 2015 after he asked to cash two cheques worth $15,200 from Ottawa Gold Buyers. Lawrence told the teller he had sold “gold nuggets” when she asked what the money was for, said court records.
The bank tipped off police, who then put Lawrence under surveillance.
Lawrence set off the metal detector more often than any other mint employee without metal implants, Doody said in his ruling. But follow-up searches with hand wands never discovered the smuggled gold hidden in his body cavity.
Police eventually seized a gold puck that Lawrence had sold and found four more in his safety deposit box.
Vaseline and latex gloves were later found in Lawrence’s locker, which Doody said “could have been used to facilitate insertion of gold items inside his rectum.”
Doody ruled Lawrence had stolen 22 gold pucks from the mint worth $165,451.14.
Defence lawyer Gary Barnes said no decision had been made about a possible appeal.
Barnes said he thinks that the mint has made major security upgrades.
There was only one camera in the large, dimly lit room where Lawrence worked, he said.
But the lawyer suggested the mint may have to do more to prevent future thefts.
“They had pails of gold just sitting around and people could walk by and actually just pick things out of them,” Barnes said outside the courthouse.
Barnes said a mint employee he cross-examined testified that the pails had since been covered but that the new tops weren’t locked.
“I’m pretty sure there’s still some work to be done there.”