Ontario Canada Nov 10 2016 A former employee of the Royal Canadian Mint is accused of smuggling precious metal in his rectum.
Leston Lawrence, 35, a Mint worker accused of slipping gold nuggets — called pucks — past high-end security checks and out of the fortress-like building in 2014 and 2015 is set to be in court this week.
Lawrence, now fired, is also charged with possession of stolen property, laundering the proceeds of crime and breach of trust in what the Crown alleges was the ultimate inside job: “secreting the gold” inside his body.
In video obtained by the Sun, Lawrence, an operator in the refinery section, can be seen setting off the “arch” metal detector through which all employees must pass when leaving secure areas of the Mint on Sussex Drive.
In the Feb. 2, 2015 clip, he is then inspected with a hand-held wand — without any apparent problem — and allowed to leave. Throughout the exchange with security staff, he appears to be in a jovial mood, as though the beeping detector was just a minor nuisance.
The trial heard that Lawrence, in fact, set off the overhead detector more than any other employee at the Mint, save those with metal medical implants. In three months, he set off the sensitive detector 27 times — sometimes with extremely high readings — but always passed the secondary hand-test.
Still, with all those warning signals, the Mint never began an internal investigation into Lawrence’s conduct. (It was only later that the RCMP recovered a jar of vaseline in his locker, as well as latex gloves. The Mint was so convinced the gold was smuggled in the anal cavity that it tested the method — successfully — with a security employee.)
The case actually broke open, not from the inside, but from suspicions raised by an alert bank teller, who noticed Lawrence was regularly depositing cheques in the $7,000 range from a gold buyer in same mall, at Westgate on Carling Avenue. (The pucks weighed about 210 grams, or 7.4 ounces.)
The bank’s security staff was alerted when the teller noticed Lawrence was also a Mint employee.
When the RCMP eventually obtained a search warrant, four of the so-called gold pucks were found in his safety deposit box — pucks that exactly matched the shape of a dipping spoon Lawrence used in the refining process.
Records seized from Ottawa Gold Buyers showed 18 pucks were sold by Lawrence between Nov. 27, 2014 and March 12, 2015. Added to dozens of gold coins that were also redeemed, the total value of the alleged theft was estimated at $179,015.
Court also heard that thousands of dollars were wired from his Royal Bank account to a construction contractor in Jamaica, while another sizeable sum was sent to an Atlantic coast marina as deposit on a boat.
When the Sun broke the story in September, it was picked up by news outlets around the world, even leading to a memorable mention in Stephen Colbert’s monologue on The Late Show, with the tag-line, Gold Sphincter, and the music from the Bond classic, Goldfinger.
Lawrence’s defence lawyer, Gary Barnes, told Justice Doody that the Crown had not proved the unmarked gold found in Lawrence’s possession even came from the Mint. Nor could the Crown corporation explain with certainty how the gold left the building, or even if records indicated it was missing any of the metal.
In effect, the Mint did not know when, or even if, any gold had been stolen, leading Barnes to call its security measures “appalling.”
There are more than 200 security cameras inside the Mint and a sizeable internal security team. It has since enhanced several security layers within the facility.