Jackpot: Separated Chatham couple take fight over $6.1M lotto ticket to court

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OLG to pay half of $6.1M lotto prize to man, but ex-girlfriend still fighting for share

Denise Robertson hoped for years to win the lottery with her live-in boyfriend, but when their numbers came up on a ticket he held for a $6.1-million jackpot, he promptly left her, according to court documents.

The Chatham, Ont., woman has filed a court injunction to stop Maurice Thibeault from claiming the winnings, half of which she believes rightfully belong to her.

"Together we dreamed about winning the lotto," she says in a sworn affidavit. "We both love muscle cars, we would each buy one and buy a large property in the country and build a large shop to work on our cars."

Text messages about ticket

Those dreams began unravelling Sept. 20, according to court documents, when the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation announced there were two winning Lotto 6/49 tickets, one sold in Chatham and one in Quebec, that would split a $12-million jackpot.

According to transcripts of text messages filed with the court, Robertson excitedly messaged Thibeault about the possibility they might be millionaires. 

"Did you buy a 649 tix for last night?" she wrote. When he replied yes, she begged him to check it.

"I'll start planning the floor plan for the house," she texted.

But when he got home, Robertson said, Thibeault "made it clear" they did not win, according to the documents. 

Reached by phone Thursday, Thibeault declined to comment.

"I am greatly saddened and disappointed by what has happened here," Robertson stated in a media release from Colautti Landry Pickard, the law firm representing her in the case. "This could have been a very happy and exciting time for us, a couple, to do things we could only dream of doing."

The couple had lived together for 2½ years and had been buying tickets together for "almost their entire relationship," according to Robertson's affidavit

"We always agreed that if we had a winning ticket, the proceeds would be ours, together as a couple," she wrote in the affidavit.

Boyfriend left without warning

Four days later, Thibeault left for work and did not come back. Robertson returned home from work to find his clothes and passport gone, according to allegations in the court documents.

"When I look back, I recall that he did approximately 15 loads of laundry of all his clothes the night prior … as if he was preparing to pack up and leave," said Robertson in the affidavit.

Robertson claims she learned Thibeault had quit his job at an area granite shop by texting his boss a photo of the winning ticket.

Robertson filed and was granted the court injunction on Sept. 28. She alerted the OLG to the disagreement over the jackpot. 

The Sept. 28 injunction, issued by Superior Court Justice Thomas Carey, states the OLG should not allow anyone to cash in the winning ticket until "the ownership issue can be disposed of."

Steve Pickard, a lawyer representing Robertson, said the injunction only halted the payout for 10 days, but OLG has since given her an "assurance" it won't distribute the funds without notifying her.

"Depending on what their decision is, we will make a decision whether we need to go back to court to file a further injunction and or a statement of claim."

OLG vigorously vets big winners

Thibeault has already tried to claim the millions at the Prize Centre in Toronto, according to an OLG representative, who said the winning ticket would be under review even if an injunction had not been filed.

All prizes of $10,000 or more are subjected to a rigorous review process that includes a mandatory in-person interview with a claims investigator to determine ownership.

"If, for any reason, our prize claim review team cannot confidently determine the ownership of the ticket from the answers to the questions from the interview, then the claim is sent to OLG general investigations for further review," wrote OLG's senior manager of media relations Tony Bitonti in an email to CBC News.

"This further review can include interviewing other individuals with relevant information surrounding the prize claim," he wrote.

Bitonti said OLG can't provide a timeline for when the prize claiming process will be completed, but that once a winner is determined their photo will be released "as we do with all big lottery winners."