But the money he was spending wasn't his own – 29-year-old Dan was just a barman who was secretly taking thousands of pounds out of a dodgy cash machine and blitzing it all on a swanky lifestyle he would never have been able to afford.
The 29-year-old from Wangaratta, Australia, discovered a glitch with an ATM on a night out that meant he could withdraw money from his credit card without being charged when the machines were 'offline'.
Over the next four months, Dan – who was previously working a £500-a-week bar job – withdrew £1,000,000 in a cash binge.
Here, he exclusively tells Sun Online how he quickly spiralled into a life of playboy excess: hosting raucous parties, using high class escorts and even buying a private jet – but that he doesn't regret it.
'I was tipsy and just kept pressing the buttons'
Dan was on a night out when he tried to buy a round of drinks and his card got declined.
When he went to the ATM down the street, it told him he had just £3 to his name.
Desperate, he clicked to withdraw £100 anyway – and to his amazement, the machine spat out the notes – despite an error message coming up on screen saying the transaction had been declined.
He went back to the bar and continued drinking – but the temptation of the crooked machine was too much, and after polishing off his pints, Saunders went back for more.
“I tried to get £250 and then £300 just to see what would happen and it kept giving me the money," he tells Sun Online. "It was 1am in a country town so there was nowhere open to spend it.
"I think it was a combination of being tipsy and bored, but I just kept doing it again and again, it was like a magic trick.”
Waking the next day, Dan thought he had dreamt it – but the money was still in his wallet.
“Being able to withdraw hundreds with the stroke of a key was a very addictive thing – I felt like a caveman discovering fire," he says.
Dan went back the next night, and worked out that by visiting the ATM between midnight and 1AM he could withdraw as much cash as he wanted because the cash machine wasn't connected to the server.
The charges would appear on his account as minus figures the next day, but that wouldn't stop him being able to draw out more cash once the clock struck midnight.
Alarmingly, his bank didn't notice.
"The bank would just ask: 'Did you just go here? Did you just go there?' And I’d say: “Yeah, that’s me” and then they’d say 'No worries just checking it’s you'. It was truly bizarre."
"I just resolved to keep going until the bank put a stop to it, but they never did," he said.
It was like a magic trick – I felt like a caveman discovering fire'
Dan started drawing out hundreds of pounds a night, splashing it on drinks for everyone in his local pub.
He worked out if he went to the same ATM between 12am and 1am he could steal as much money as he liked.
He started eating out at the best restaurants in his town and throwing wild parties every weekend.
Despite carelessly withdrawing more and more money in the early hours, within just a few weeks Dan became increasingly aware that his bank balance was getting further and further into the red – though the bank still never contacted him.
Panicking, he started trying to “win” the money back by gambling.
Within a matter of weeks he fired for gambling on the job and his girlfriend dumped him.
But Dan was already used to living the high life – and a relationship breakdown and losing his job wasn't going to stop him enjoying himself.
“People who think you've got money they treat you differently," he says."Especially with the opposite sex, it attracts people.
Dan previously admitted to paying for glamorous escorts to walk on his arm.
'Money attracts women – and I made dreams come true'
Saunders’ life quickly became like a movie, with raucous parties, private jets, call girls, plush hotels, Beluga caviar and Hugo Boss suits becoming routine.
He also paid off some of his friends’ university tuition fees and sent a mate to study in France.
Most of Saunders’ mates didn’t believe his story about the ATM hack – and the bank didn't notice either.
He kept it secret from his straight-laced family, and told strangers he was an investment banker or working in real estate.
The most expensive thing Saunders bought was a flight in 20-seat private jet, which he chartered with his mates to an island in Asia, near Bali, which set him back almost £50,000.
“I couldn't tell you exactly where it was, but I didn't need a passport to get there.
"We were in the air for about three hours and had filled the plane up with people.
"It was a mix of old friends and new faces. We hired the whole resort, the over-water villas and ate and drank there.
“I opened the book on anything – people just gave me their dreams and I fulfilled them.”
'My therapist told me to hand myself in'
Saunders once hired a minibus, stopping at all the backpacker hostels in Melbourne picking up people. He then drove them out to a big estate he hired out in the stunning Yarra Valley where he hosted pool parties.
But it all turned sour later on. Saunders started having anxiety attacks and began to get scared about being caught.
“I think there was a small part of me wanted it to end but I was past the point of no return, my life had changed dramatically," he says.
He often dreamt about being caught.
“One night I had a nightmare that the SWAT team was out the front of the hotel room I was staying in," he recalls.
"I remember waking up in a pool full of sweat, realising that it was just a dream and then hotel doorbell rang. I was like 'that's it, I'm gone. They're coming to get me', which actually would have been a relief – but it turned out to be the maid asking if I'd like fresh towels."
Two years passed and Saunders was finding it hard to come to terms with his overnight riches, so he started seeing psychologists.
The first one Saunders saw freaked out, saying she wasn’t qualified to help him.
The second said he should turn himself in to clear his conscience.
A slap on the wrists
Saunders had never contacted the police, but he stopped working the glitch and once he'd blown all the money he contacted the bank in June 2011.
They said that the police would get in touch with him about it – but they never did. Dan even appeared on a national news programme detailing his lifestyle.
He went to several small local newspapers with his story and gave a video interview on Australian news programme, The Current Affair.
Still, it was three years before Saunders was arrested on 111 counts related to fraud and theft.
Dan says: "The court case was weird because no one actually understood what I did: not the judge, not the prosecutor, it was very odd.
"There were many blank looks; the bank provided minimal evidence so it was really just a case of 'bad Dan and that’s it….case closed.
“They even played the Current Affair interview in the court room as evidence. It was surreal.
"I just sat back and pleaded guilty and sort of let it all unfold in front of me.
"It was the oddest set of circumstances I have ever witnessed."
In May 2016, Saunders left jail after spending a year in prison. He’s now working in a bar again on £12.50 an hour.
He tells Sun Online: "Right now, I'm happy. I've got a pretty stable life with a bit of everything here and there.
"It's better now, but there was definitely a hangover time, when I thought, jeez, maybe I should have gone to Spain after all.”
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