Lot­tery thief can never over­come be­trayal of pals

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - CHRISTO­PHER REYNOLDS

NI­A­GARA FALLS — A man who pleaded guilty af­ter try­ing to trick a group out of a $7-mil­lion lotto win says he still “can’t make it up to them” more than three years af­ter the be­trayal.

Frank Galella, 67, en­tered a guilty plea to theft over $5,000 and coun­selling to com­mit the crime of false pre­tenses, tied to an at­tempt to keep the jack­pot in the fam­ily rather than split­ting it among his 10 fel­low Lotto 6/49 win­ners. He ap­peared Tues­day in a St. Catharines court­room.

“Am I feel­ing all right? Of course, I’m not feel­ing all right,” Galella said from his home in Ni­a­gara Falls. “I can’t make it up to them. “I’m a Catholic,” Galella added. When asked if he has he been to con­fes­sion re­cently, he replied, “Not lately.”

It all started in late July 2013. Galella, act­ing in his reg­u­lar role as “group cap­tain” of his Ni­a­gara-area lot­tery crew at the time, shelled out $11 for a $7-mil­lion

jack­pot draw, said OLG spokesper­son Tony Bi­tonti. He said the group won with a string of seven lucky num­bers on July 31, 2013 — but the 10 other men on the ticket didn’t seem to know it.

In­stead, Galella’s daugh­ter, Joanne Galella, now 35, and his son ap­peared at the On­tario Lot­tery and Gam­ing Corp. prize cen­tre at Yonge and Dun­das streets in down­town Toronto, pre­sent­ing the win­ning ticket, Bi­tonti said. The cash never made it into the fam­ily’s hands.

“From my un­der­stand­ing, (Frank Galella) told the group mem­bers that (their ticket) wasn’t a win­ner, but that his daugh­ter won,” Bi­tonti said. “That’s when the sus­pi­cions arose.”

All ticket claims over $1,000 go through a brief re­view process, but “the one piece of in­for­ma­tion we don’t have is who bought the ticket,” he said. The OLG doesn’t record the iden­tity of lotto ticket buy­ers, he said. Soon af­ter the sup­pos­edly ex­clu­sive jack­pot, group mem­bers got sus­pi­cious.

“I was quite sur­prised,” said An­gelo Long, one of the 10 men who would even­tu­ally col­lect their right­ful win­nings in the draw.

Calls to OLG from some of the 10 other win­ners — still un­cer­tain of the wind­fall that awaited — es­ca­lated into a po­lice probe and even­tu­ally to the On­tario Provin­cial Po­lice’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions and en­force­ment bureau, at­tached to the Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion of On­tario.

The OPP stated on Wed­nes­day that “Mr. Galella was the group leader of a lot­tery group that won $7,036,047 in a Lotto 6/49 draw.

“In an agreed state­ment of fact read be­fore the courts, Mr. Galella en­listed the as­sis­tance of two fam­ily mem­bers to claim the win­ning Lotto 6/49 ticket as their own.”

Frank Galella, who was the 11th mem­ber of the group, was ar­rested in Oc­to­ber 2014. The Ni­a­gara Falls Re­view re­ported he was a re­tired Ni­a­gara Falls city worker and that he had no pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record.

His daugh­ter was charged in con­nec­tion with the case, which is still be­fore the courts, ac­cord­ing to a St. Catharines court­house staffer. Frank Galella is due back in court for sen­tenc­ing on Sept. 8, 2016, in St. Catharines Su­pe­rior Court, ac­cord­ing to an OPP press re­lease. He’s the only one who hasn’t come for­ward to claim his share of the loot. He did not of­fer a rea­son for hold­ing off on col­lect­ing the cash.

Bi­tonti said there’s no ap­par­ent rea­son for OLG, a Crown cor­po­ra­tion, to with­hold it should he show up, “but we’re not proac­tively go­ing af­ter him.”

Ul­ti­mately, Bi­tonti said OLG doc­u­ments from the win­ners, dated and signed from July 2013, showed them to be the right­ful win­ners — along with Frank. The 10 other win­ners re­ceived their nov­elty cheque in Oc­to­ber 2014, each bask­ing in about $640,000 of jack­pot cash.

The 11 men typ­i­cally played “quick pick” com­puter-gen­er­ated num­bers, gam­bling on two $11 tick­ets for each of the Wed­nes­day and Satur­day Lotto 6/49 draws, Bi­tonti said.

I was quite sur­prised. AN­GELO LONG ONE OF 10 MEN ONCE IN LOT­TERY POOL WITH FRANK GALELLA

Galella was ar­rested in Oc­to­ber 2014.

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