Ontario, Canada — Dan Carley is one person who has had a roller-coaster of a life. Following a $5 million lottery win, the young man was riding the riches and engaged to the mother of his future child. But then, things didn’t go the way they ought to, in his case.
Earlier this week, Carley spoke with a reporter from The Star while behind bars, in a series of two conference calls with his long-time lawyer Brenda Sandulak. He contacted the media a few days after he was sentenced to 2.5 years in federal prison for cocaine trafficking.
During those two conference calls, 35-year old Carley talked about the ecstatic feeling that followed after winning the biggest instant cash prize in provincial history at the time. He elaborated on the traumatic ten years where he fell victim to drug addiction, bad investments, and even attempted suicide.
How It All Started…
On Feb.21, 2006, Carley experienced a flash of great luck when he scratched his golden ticket at a St. Catharines convenience store, and ended up as the winner of a $5 million jackpot. He ended up partying all night with his family and friends the next day, until 4 a.m. at Carley’s Pub which he co-owned along with his father. According to Carley, the party never stopped. He said,
“Things were pretty crazy, I was drinking every single day, partying every single day, doing coke.”
Carley adds that more than one-fifth of his cash prize was squandered away to fund his growing addiction for cocaine, heroin, and oxycodone for the next nine years.
When asked about how much money he had blown away on drugs, Carley estimated,
“At least a million — maybe more. You’re not really thinking about it, you’ve got lots of money in the bank, you just keep spending.”
The Downward Spiral Continues…
Carley added more woes to his life when he invested $1.5 million in a failed scheme which revolved around developing a string of tourist pubs in Niagara. He had made this investment seven months after hitting the jackpot and the scheme fell through in 2007.
The man ended up blowing up another million on poor investments in the first year. By 2009, his bank accounts were in a miserable shape with debt, heavy expenditure on drugs and alcohol, pending mortgage payments and back taxes. Carley also lost a dozen of his properties that he owned or had a stake in, which included his home and the family-owned pub. Many of the properties were sold to pay off creditors. He added that a few were taken away from him by foreclosure and ruined his credit .
Carley’s relationships suffered too, he separated from his wife in 2014. His former best friend also sued him for a portion of the prize money, stating that he had a stake in the winnings. The suit was dismissed by the Ontario Superior Court’s judgement eventually, but not before stretching on for three and a half years.
Sandulak added that after the lottery win, Carley began to associate himself with “questionable characters”. By 2014, he was addicted heavily to cocaine and heroin — a dark period in his life which he refers to as a “psychotic break”. Carley adds, “I actually tried to slice my wrists, and my dad found me”.
The former-lotto winner pleaded guilty in May this year for indulging in cocaine trafficking, and was sentenced on August 3. “I take full responsibility. I’m not blaming anybody else,” Carley told The Star from a St. Catharines detention center. “I was uneducated, young. I didn’t even have a high school diploma at the time (of the lotto win).”
Ron Charlebois, Carley’s current lawyer and husband of Sandulak, states that Carley’s soft-spoken and observant nature does not quite suit the profile of most convicted drug-deals in and around Niagara. Sandulak observes that at 25, Carley was a naïve young man when he won the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. prize, who couldn’t quite figure out how to handle instant riches and fame, exposing himself to people with dubious intentions.
Carley has been sober for nearly two years and says that he has made peace with his disturbing past. “I’m a lot happier now than when I had the money. It was just partying and misery,” he admits.
Carley keeps in touch with his daughter by phone, but he doesn’t want her to visit the detention center, or Joyceville Institution — the federal prison in Kingston where he’s going to be placed.
“To look at me behind the plate glass, it’s not something I want her to see,” he said. Carley is determined to get his life back in order, with his eyes set on a college social work program, after his release.