'Canadian mint worker smuggled $180,000 gold in rectum'
An employee of the Royal Canadian Mint has been accused of smuggling about USD 180,000 worth of gold from a fortress-like facility by hiding the precious metal inside his rectum.
Leston Lawrence, 35, allegedly sold the smuggled gold to an Ottawa Gold Buyers store. He has been accused of transporting several cookie-sized gold pieces called "pucks" out of the Mint and selling them to the gold buyer.
His dealings allegedly netted him almost USD 180,000 over the course of a few months, the Ottawa Citizen reported.
The case against Lawrence, of Barrhaven, concluded in an Ottawa courtroom last Tuesday and Justice Peter Doody reserved decision until November 9 on a number of smuggling-for-cash charges, including theft, laundering the proceeds of crime, possession of stolen property and breach of trust.
It was not the Mint that discovered the alleged theft but an alert bank teller.
Court was told that, on multiple occasions, Lawrence took small circular chunks of gold to Ottawa Gold Buyers in the Westgate Shopping Centre.
Typically, the pucks weighed about 210 grammes for which he was given cheques in the USD 6,800 range, depending on fluctuating gold prices, court heard. He then deposited the cheques at the Royal Bank in the same mall.
One day a teller became suspicious at the size and number of Ottawa Gold Buyers cheques being deposited and Lawrence's request to wire money out of the country. She then noticed on his account profile that he worked at the Mint. The first red flag was up.
Bank security was alerted, then the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which began to investigate. Eventually, a search warrant was obtained and four Mint-style pucks were found in Lawrence's safety deposit box, the court heard.
Records revealed 18 pucks had been sold between November 27, 2014 and March 12, 2015. Together with dozens of gold coins that were redeemed, the total value of the suspected theft was conservatively estimated at USD 179,015.
Lawrence, who has since been terminated, was an operator in the refinery section. Among his duties was to scoop gold from buckets so it could be tested for purity, as the Mint prides itself on gold coins above the 99 per cent level.
Court was told Lawrence set off the metal detector at an exit from the "secure area" with more frequency than any other employee save those with metal medical implants. When that happened, the procedure was to do a manual search with a hand-held wand, a search that he always passed.
Investigators also found a container of vaseline in his locker and the trial was presented with the
prospect that a puck could be concealed in an anal cavity and not be detected by the wand.
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