03/06/2012 01:00 EST | Updated 05/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Alleged X-ray thief caught west of Ottawa

Ottawa police have charged a Toronto man caught with 20,000 X-rays in 13 barrels, which they believe were taken while impersonating an employee of a recycling company.

Police confiscated the X-rays from a U-Haul truck the man was driving after a botched effort in Smiths Falls, Ont., about 75 km southwest of Ottawa. They believe the scam was operating across Ontario.

Police said the man, 37, told hospitals and diagnostic clinics in the Ottawa, Toronto and London, Ont., areas he worked for Environmental Control Systems, who then gave the man the X-rays.

The company, which is contracted out by most Ottawa medical centres, confirmed to CBC News the man was pretending to be one of its employees.

Police also believe the man wanted the X-rays for the silver that can be extracted from the film. The price of silver has skyrocketed recently and police said you can get about $50 for an ounce of the expensive metal.

New forms of X-rays also include about 5 grams of silver per kilogram, while old film X-rays have 12 grams per kilogram of silver.

Unique form of theft, fraud

Staff Sgt. Kevin McCaffrey said he has not seen this type of operation in more than 30 years of policing. He added that the man faces fraud charges but it is expected more will be laid, including theft of personal identity.

The X-rays include personal information including a patient's date of birth and name, as well as other information, an Ottawa radiologist added.

David Price, who works at Ottawa's Queensway-Carleton Hospital, said the hospital received an email in late February warning them about someone going around looking for X-rays.

He does not believe his hospital was victim to the scam, but said they heightened their concerns after receiving the email.

Price said the hospital has used Environmental Control Systems for years.