Buckingham Palace servant who stole memorabilia worth £100,000 to sell on eBay is jailed
A Buckingham Palace servant has been jailed for eight months after stealing medals and memorabilia worth £100,000.
Adamo Canto took a Companion of the Order of the Bath and a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order medal while claiming to be cleaning to prevent Covid-19.
They were among the objects the 37-year-old sold on eBay as his defense claimed he needed money to pay off debts he incurred as he tried to afford life on the Palace’s “minimal” wages.
A picture signed by Prince William and wife Kate Middleton was another item stolen, while a photo album of the Royal State Banquet during US President Donald Trump’s state visit was snatched up by an eBay buyer for £1,500.
The valuable objects were all stolen from the Royal Household and the Royal Shop at Buckingham Palace between November 11, 2019 and August 7 last year.
Former catering assistant Canto also took a bespoke Samsung phone which was custom made as a gift for the Duke of York.
Canto had worked at the palace for five years but was given extra Covid-19 cleaning duties which gave him access to lockers which he raided for the valuables.
At his sentencing hearing today, Southwark Crown Court heard he swiped the goods so he could re-sell them to pay off payday loan debts racked up to boost his lifestyle on the Palace’s ‘minimal’ wages.
He had no previous convictions, and had a successful career caring for the vulnerable, including those with Alzheimers.
A judge today looked kindly on Canto, reducing his sentence from a starting point of 18 months, to just eight.
Judge David Tomlinson said: “This was a high culpability case because of the breach of trust and for the reasons I have already identified I cannot simply put it at the lower end of level two.
“I note the persistence with which you committed the offences. It was a period of some nine months.
“I give you full credit for your timely plea, level of cooperation, and good character. As far as I can see, you were in financial difficulty and thought this was the way out.
“I attach significant weight to what is said about your work in the care sector with vulnerable individuals.
“These offences are so serious that only a sentence of immediate custody is justified.
“I take a starting point of 18 months reduced in the first instance to 12 months which I will reduce by a further four months to address the current difficulties identified caused by the pandemic and the personal mitigation.
“The sentence of each count which will run concurrently is eight months imprisonment.”
The court heard how officers who searched his parents’ home, in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, found stolen items, including a goldfish patterned tea set, and eBay records which showed he sold his haul for just £10,688.
A “conservative” estimate brought the total count of stolen items to 150. They have since been valued as being worth up to £100,000.
They also searched his home at Royal Mews, part of the palace, where they found items including silk pyjamas and a jewellery box nabbed from the Royal Shop.
Tragically, some of the items have still not been recovered. Canto previously pleaded guilty to the crimes at Westminster Crown Court.
A victim impact statement from Sir Anthony Johnstone-Burt, Queen’s Master of the Household, head of “below stairs operations”, said: “I noticed the medal was missing on June 11. I needed to wear it for Trooping of the Colour.
“I had to borrow a medal and reported it on June 29. The reason I waited was because I had to make sure I hadn’t misplaced it.
“I had been informed by a member of the Royal Household that items from Buckingham Palace were being sold on eBay.
“I discovered that my Companion of the Order of the Bath was up for sale for £500. It had been sold for £350. The replacement value is £665.
“I knew this was my medal because of the ribbon. I had sewed on an additional hook and eye.”
Retired British Army officer Major General Matthew Sykes, who served in the Royal Household from 2007 to 2010, lost his Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
He said: “I was made aware on August 24 a number of medals had gone missing. I checked my locker and found the medal was missing from my personal locker. Police were made aware on August 25.
“To have something stolen from you is always upsetting but this is a medal given to me privately and personally by the queen.
“The original is irreplaceable.”
The court heard how Canto was a “naive and unworldly individual” who came to London to “start a new life.”
He had previously worked in social care and became lead technician for a North Yorkshire Alzheimer’s rehabilitation centre.
But Canto was plunged into payday loan debt as he struggled to live on the Palace’s ‘minimal’ wages, the court was told.
Mitigating, Howard Cohen said: “His pay at the palace was minimal and he felt it was difficult for him to sustain a lifestyle that he wanted to adhere to and he started to try to pay off the debts that he inevitably accrued by living beyond his means by taking short payday loans.
“In short order he found himself taking a loan in order to pay the interest of another loan and another and another and another. He built out debts of some £8,000.”
With his debt mounting and with sudden access to previously restricted parts of the palace, he was “unable to resist”, the court heard.
Mr Cohen added: “This is an opportunist who breached the trust endowed upon him as a result of his employment and now bitterly, genuinely and deeply regrets his actions.”