Local former drug dealer wants a second chance
By Roland Cilliers
Roland Cilliers/North Star
January 9, 2013
PARRY SOUND - There’s a lot of money to be made selling drugs.
But just as countless Hollywood movies have shown, the consequences of the narcotics trade can be severe.
Leonard Clare has gone by several different aliases. The born and raised Parry Sounder, has been called “Choppy”, “Chopper” and the more comedic “Chopper’s Drug Mart.” Over his 55-year life, he has sold and used a fortune in illegal drugs and has served close to 15 years in jail for his crimes.
“When I went in front of the parole board they figured out I was making $56,000 a week at one time,” said Clare. “I don’t know what anyone thinks, but at one point back in the 90s I was the one who was running this town for drugs and pills. Anything that went on here, I knew about it.”
When he was sent to jail, Clare lost more than just the money. His latest sentence saw him getting released in February of 2012 after serving two years and seven months. In that time he saw his daughter only twice.
That charge came from a 2009 arrest that stemmed from a six-month undercover investigation by the OPP that caught more than 40 people. Clare had sold $4,880 worth of Oxycontin, hydromorphone and cocaine to an undercover officer.
That sentence was light compared to the first time Clare was sent to jail, which had him on the inside for nine years and two months. That was in 1992 for a counselling to commit murder charge as well as for trafficking in a number of narcotics.
“To me it was like a gangster show. I had so many connections. I had Jamaican connections, Colombian connections all down in the city. So anything I wanted, I could get. If anybody harassed me I just made a phone call and I wasn’t being bugged anymore,” Clare said.
Many of the true-life stories Clare tells sound like something right out of a gangster movie.
He said there was a time when he was making roughly $10,000 every two days selling cocaine in Oakville. At the end of that period, he had about $500,000 sitting on his bed.
The easy-access to drugs and money proved to be dangerous. Clare developed a drug addiction that saw him taking a vast amount oxycontin, morphine and hydromorphs. He believes he was on the verge of taking heroin before being thrown in jail.
Today, Clare said he just wants to live a normal life. He hopes to show the community that something good can come out of his past.
“I’m hoping that this time next year I’ll be going to school to take a short order chef course,” said Clare. “That’s what I want to do, but I would sure like to have input from the community what they would like to see me do.”
He understands that his past has created a number of barriers towards legal, gainful employment. He said the first obstacle he faces in any job application process is the standard, ‘Do you have a criminal record’ question.
Since getting out of jail last February, Clare has become an active volunteer with the Salvation Army. He was a common sight at the Christmas kettles around town.
Dennis Minor, an organizer with the Salvation Army, said Clare was an asset throughout the Christmas campaign.
“He was definitely helpful. He has a cheery outlook on things he’s very, very interested in helping and reaching out to people who are in the situation he used to be in. He also comes downtown to our street ministry on Friday nights as well, and he’s always willing to share and help anyway he can,” said Minor.
In the future, Clare wants to be able to go into the schools and talk with kids about the damage drugs have had to his life. He encourages young people to stay far away from drugs and alcohol.
Clare said, right now, he has no desire to return his previous life. He credits his daughter and son-in-law, who he now lives with, for keeping him on the right path.
“If it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I would be today because life wouldn’t be worth living to tell you the truth,” Clare said. “She says to me, dad if you keep helping yourself I’m there to help you, but if you think your going back to they way you were I’m not going to be there - so there’s my choices.”
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