Court freezes $6-million lottery payout
Chatham woman battles former live-in boyfriend for share of Lotto 6/49 jackpot
CHATHAM — The war over a $6-million lottery ticket sold here has torn apart a couple that should instead be sharing experiences “we could only dream of doing.”
That’s the pained perspective of Denise Robertson, 46, who has gone to court to win what she believes is her share of the massive jackpot her longtime live-in boyfriend, Maurice Thibeault, won Sept. 20 — before moving out without telling her about it.
“I am greatly saddened and disappointed by what has happened here,” Robertson said in a statement issued Thursday by the Windsor law firm representing her, Colautti Landry.
“This could have been a very happy and exciting time for us as a couple to do things we could only dream of doing.”
A court injunction obtained by Robertson’s lawyers has frozen the payout while officials with Ontario’s lottery regulator, the OLG, review the matter.
Thibeault, who quit his job at a local granite company after buying the winning ticket, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The conflict — an echo of the 2004 case of Woodstock-area lottery winner Ray Sobeski — is over a Lotto 6/49 ticket, one of two winners in a $12-million jackpot. The other winner was sold in Quebec.
In the brewing court battle, Robertson details in legal filings a dramatic step-by-step account of what she calls the attempts by Thibeault to keep the lotto win a secret and leave her out of it. Here are excerpts from her affidavit, the contents of which have not been tested in court:
• She says the couple often buys lottery tickets and agreed that “if we had a winning ticket, the proceeds would be ours, as a couple.”
• She heard on local radio that one of the two winning tickets in the $12-million Sept. 20 lottery was sold in Chatham. Thibeault made it clear to her and friends that their ticket didn’t win.
•He left for work at a London job site on Sept. 25. He was unresponsive over text all day and she was “shocked” to return home and see he’d moved out “all his clothes, his toiletries and most of his other personal items and his Canadian passport.”
• A friend of Robertson’s passed along rumours Thibeault had won the lottery. This was confirmed by Thibeault’s boss, who shared a text in which Thibeault said “Denise and I are no longer together” and that, due to another life-changing event, “I will not be coming back to work.” Included in the text was a photo of the winning ticket.
• In the affidavit urging the court injunction, she expressed fear that with the money, Thibeault could “leave the country” and “any access I have to my portion of these funds will be lost.”
Tony Bitonti, a spokesperson for OLG, confirmed a court injunction has been slapped on the ticket, freezing the payout. The so-called “price-claim review process” is done to “ensure the OLG pays the right prize to the right person/people every time,” he said.
“When the prize is eventually paid out, OLG will issue a winner’s news release along with a photo, as we do with all our big lottery winners.”
In the meantime, people in Chatham are already taking sides as the details of the jackpot fallout become public.
“I think he owes her $3 million,” Dakota Hodgson of Chatham said. “It’s life-changing money.”
Chatham’s Clair Culliford wouldn’t fault Robertson for taking action.
“Morally, he should give her some,” he said. “He should avoid the court action.”
In the 2004 Sobeski case, the Oxford County man held onto his $30-million ticket for nearly a year — long enough to file for divorce from his wife, Nynna Ionson.
Five years later, Sobeski and Ionson’s legal fight ended with the two settling privately.
While Robertson fights for what she believes is her share of the $6-million Chatham windfall, her affidavit also hints at the personal pain of being left behind by the man she’d lived with for more than two years.
“Together, we dreamed about winning the lotto,” Robertson said. “We both love muscle cars, (we said) we would buy each other one and buy a large property in the country and build a large shop to work on our cars.”