Joseph Andrew Cresp succumbed to temptation. At least that is how Judge John Staub put it, when he ruled his verdict at the hearing of the case which brought the Kalgoorlie man to court. The 52-year-old hasd been working on a pump at the Sunrise Dam Gold mine’s mill last February, when something irregular happened. A pile of dirt containing nearly 4kg of gold fell out of one of the sumps, during a routine shutdown.

What happened next, was describing as a “brain explosion”, by the accused man’s defence lawyer, Kim Samiotis, who told the court that her client had been dealing with financial stress, undiagnosed depression and a sick daughter in the lead up to his decision to keep the gold, worth more than $200,000. Cresp hid the gold in his locker at work, and when his shift ended, he drove home with it, and kept it in his gun safe. The court heard that he was planning to sell the gold and use the money to fund a family holiday trip to Greece, as a surprise gift for his wife’s birthday. But things did not work out in his favour. He did manage to sell one kilo of the gold for $90,000 to a gold trader in Perth, but the WA Police were on his trail, since the trader could not provide the gold’s origin to the Perth Mint.

Cresp was arrested in June, having spent no more than $6,000 to pay for a holiday, for servicing his car and for financial support for his eldest daughter. When he appeared in court he pleaded guilty to fraud and stealing as a servant; his expression of remorse and willingness to cooperate were taken into account and the court granted him a two-year suspended sentence, sparing him from an immediate jail term. In his sentencing remarks, Judge John Staude acknowledged that the 52-year-old had worked with the company’s representatives to identify and fix security risks his theft exposed.
Located 1,000 km north-east of Perth, Sunrise Dam is owned and managed by the South African mining giant Anglogold Ashanti.The company’s representatives were stunned by the level of security breach that allowed for Cresp to steal that much gold in one swoop, and had the accused flown to Perth at the company’s expense, so that he would assist in an effort to strengthen the mine’s security.

According to Judge Staude the accused man’s obvious contrition, including returning the gold and working to repay the outstanding money, counted in his favour. Deeming the 52-year-old’s actions as opportunistic, rather than explicitly criminal, he ruled that a prison term would cause undue hardship to Cresp’s family, which has already been “disgraced” and “embarrased” by him. Judge Staude ordered $75,744 be repaid to Anglogold and $8,255 to the gold trader Cresp defrauded, with the remaining 2.5kg of gold to be returned to the mining company.