The Slatest

Canadian Mint Employee Pulls Heist by Sticking $180,000 in Gold Coins “Up His Bum.” Or Not?

Gold for the taking.

Sebastian Derungs/AFP/Getty Images

If you want to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold coins from the Royal Canadian Mint, it’s not that hard really. Here’s how you do it. First, get a job at the Mint. Second, stick the gold coins, clinically speaking, “up your bum.” Third, walk out. That’s more or less how 35-year-old local Ottawa man, Leston Lawrence, allegedly did it and he tiptoed away with $180,000 in gold, the Mint thinks. They think that’s the case because they’re not actually sure how much is gone, nor are they totally sure Lawrence took it, but they’re pretty sure. And for now, that’s going to have to be enough.

This heist edition of Canadian problems are quainter than your problems comes via the just-concluded trial of Leston Lawrence for “smuggling-for-cash charges, including theft, laundering the proceeds of crime, possession of stolen property and breach of trust,” all of which the Ottawa Citizen reports to be illegal in Canada. Lawrence’s defense team utilized the the best defense is a good offense defense and declared the state’s case against Lawrence “appalling.” “This is the Royal Canadian Mint, your Honour, and one would think they should have the highest security measures imaginable,” the defense lawyer said in his closing remarks. “And here the gold is left sitting around in open buckets.”

Open buckets?! Oh Canada. How could he not steal them? To make matters worse, the Mint didn’t even notice that Lawrence had pilfered the coins; an alert bank teller flagged what he thought was suspicious banking behavior. All told, Lawrence walked out with what’s conservatively estimated at $179,015 worth of gold coins and cookie-size solid gold “pucks.” In fact, four of the pucks were found in a safe deposit box owned by Lawrence and 18 had been sold for approximately $6,800 each from November 2014 to March 2015.

Sure, your honor, it doesn’t look good, but how did Lawrence, whose literal job was “to scoop gold from buckets so it could be tested for purity” each day, get the coins out of the mint? Here’s how:

[The] 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. (It was not uncommon for employees to set off the detector, court heard.) 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. In preparation for these proceedings, in fact, a security employee actually tested the idea. …

[T]he defence countered with a couple of important points. The Crown was not able to prove conclusively that the gold in Lawrence’s possession actually came from inside the Mint. It had no markings nor, apparently, had any gold been reported missing internally. The Crown was able to show the pucks precisely fit the Mint’s custom “dipping spoon” made in-house — not available commercially — that is used to scoop molten gold during the production process… [Lawrence’s lawyer] implied there were many ways Lawrence could have legitimately obtained the gold — he could have bought the coins, for instance — and said he made no efforts to be devious with the gold buyers or the bank. Further, [he] said, the Mint isn’t even sure a theft took place.

“In an emailed statement Tuesday evening, a Mint spokeswoman said several security measures had been upgraded, including high definition security cameras in all areas, improved ability to track, balance and reconcile precious metal, and the use of ‘trend analysis technology,’ ” according to the Ottawa Citizen. Win or lose, that seems like a good start.