Scams and shams – December 2016

An Ottawa man awaits trial for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in gold from the Royal Canadian Mint, while the leader of a massive cyberfraud ring in the UK has been sentenced to 11 years in prison.


Mint worker allegedly made off with $180K in gold

A former refinery operator at the Royal Canadian Mint is accused of stealing dozens of cookie-sized gold nuggets and coins from his employer by hiding them in his rectum. Leston Lawrence, 35, of Ottawa had access to open buckets of gold, as it was his job to check the metal’s purity. And while the Mint never reported or was even aware that the gold was missing, a sharp bank teller noticed that Lawrence had been depositing numerous four-figure cheques from Ottawa Gold Buyers: a total value of $179,015 between November 2014 and March 2015. When she found out he worked at the Mint, an investigation was launched. At press time, Lawrence was a waiting the judge’s decision in the case.


Sports memorabilia collector faked Heisman Trophy

Heisman Trophy replica

John Rogers, owner and president of Arkansas-based Sports Card Plus and Rogers Photo Archive, has been charged in a US$10-million fraud in which he allegedly used phoney sports memorabilia as collateral on bank loans and to con investors. Among the fakes is a Heisman Trophy replica that Rogers reportedly tried to pass off as the one awarded to University of Oklahoma running back Billy Sims in 1978.


Bank scammer stole $193 million

The leader of a massive cyberfraud ring in the UK has been sentenced to 11 years in prison. Feezan Hameed Choudhary, 25, of Glasgow, Scotland, paid bank employees to give him corporate customers’ account details, which he then used to convince the account holders they had been hacked. When the unsuspecting victims revealed their security passwords, he would empty their accounts in minutes. Choudhary, along with 14 other ring members who also face jail time, targeted clients of Lloyds, Santander, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland, defrauding 750 businesses out of £113 million ($192.7 million) between 2013 and 2015. Choudhary spent the money on luxury holidays, flashy cars — including a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and two Porsches — and property in Pakistan, Dubai and Scotland.


Couple stole deceased’s identity, home utilities

A city commissioner and her boyfriend have been arrested for moving into a dead woman’s home and allowing the utilities to continue being automatically paid from the deceased’s bank account. Sara Shaw, 36, and Peter Sendtko, 42, of Kissimmee, Fla., are charged with grand theft and fraudulent use of a deceased person’s personal identification. Police began investigating in September 2015 after receiving an anonymous tip about the couple living in a house that was owned by a woman who had died four years earlier. The utilities continued to be paid by automatic withdrawals from the woman’s bank account, totalling more than US$4,600. Shaw’s City Commission term expired last month.