Court freezes $6-mil­lion lot­tery pay­out

Chatham wo­man bat­tles for­mer live-in boyfriend for share of Lotto 6/49 jack­pot

The London Free Press - - LOCAL - TREVOR TERFLOTH

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.”

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