Rightful winners of 2003 lottery finally claim jackpot
There was a long overdue payday Thursday for seven fraud victims who never collected $12.5 million in lottery winnings, despite purchasing a winning ticket from a southern Ontario convenience store more than seven years ago.
Each of the men, all of whom worked together when the original Super 7 ticket was purchased on Boxing Day in 2003, will soon be depositing their $2.12-million share of the prize. With interest, the total winnings have grown to $14.85 million.
"I'm a little overwhelmed," one of the winners, 37-year-old Daniel Campbell said before quickly correcting himself. "I'm a lot overwhelmed."
Although the magnitude of their good fortune is only now sinking in, the Super 7 jackpot winners said they're looking forward to paying down debts, helping family, and perhaps giving into an indulgence or two.
"I'm thrilled this is going on," Daniel MacGregor, 36, said. "I'm going to pay off the mortgage and probably buy a pretty expensive truck and that's probably about it for now."
Police charged a Burlington, Ont., convenience store worker and his two children with fraud last September. Police allege the family claimed the earnings for themselves and used the cash to fund a lavish lifestyle.
Police have seized or frozen assets linked to the three accused family members, including two Toronto-area homes worth $2 million and $1.3 million, luxury items and five vehicles.
Despite the long wait for his money, expectant father Joseph Reaman, 35, suggested a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"I've got a baby on the way and he's pretty much set for life, the lucky bastard."
The celebration came after the Ontario Provincial Police publicly identified the group after a lengthy vetting process.
"Credit goes to members of the Inspection and Investigation Branch who -- working with Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) -- diligently followed through on the hundreds of tips from the public," OPP Deputy Commissioner Scott Tod said in a statement Thursday.
The other winners, also from southern Ontario communities, include:
- Adam Barnett, 32 years old, of Grimsby
- Jason Dykema, 34 years old, of Burlington
- Michael Maddocks, 35 years old, of Beamsville
- James Reaman, 40 years old, of Ridgeville
"This stuff doesn't happen to people like us," Barnett told reporters.
At a news conference Thursday, OLG chair Paul Godfrey said it's good news to finally see the rightful winners awarded their prizes.
"It's a commitment that today, after more than seven long years, we are proud to be able to meet and fully uphold."
Godfrey told reporters that the OLG plans to pursue a civil action against the suspects in order to recoup the cash.
Police say the saga began with a Super 7 ticket bought at a video store in St. Catharines that was later validated at the convenience store in nearby Burlington.
Although the original ticket won a free play, police allege the father and son working at the store never gave it to the customer. That free ticket went on to hit the $12.5 million jackpot.
According to the OPP, "two men provided the winning ticket to a female family member to claim, in an attempt to conceal their association between their criminal activity and the lottery retail location."
The family is out on a combined total of $700,000 in bail, on the condition they surrender their passports and avoid communicating with each other.
Winners identified among 660 claimants
Stung by several allegations of insider fraud, the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation is now using a computer tracking system to analyze ticket purchase patterns and characteristics.
Godfrey told reporters that the software, in combination with the OPP's investigatory efforts, helped comb through the 660 people who came forward to claim they were winning ticket's rightful owner.
Jun-Chul Chung, 60, Kathleen Chung, 29, and Kenneth Chung, 28, face several charges, including fraud over $5,000 and possession under $5,000.
With files from The Canadian Press