Windsor pizza worker's suit for piece of $1M lotto win is 'desperate afterthought': defence statement

·4 min read
Lawyer David Robins is representing the 16 group members being sued by Windsor, Ont., resident Philip Tsotsos, who is seeking part of a $1-million lottery win. A defence statement says Tsotsos isn't entitled to a share of the pot, while he claims he is. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)
Lawyer David Robins is representing the 16 group members being sued by Windsor, Ont., resident Philip Tsotsos, who is seeking part of a $1-million lottery win. A defence statement says Tsotsos isn't entitled to a share of the pot, while he claims he is. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)

Sixteen members of a Windsor, Ont., group that hit a $1-million lottery win want a judge to throw out claims by a former co-worker that he's entitled to part of the pot.

The group won the Maxmillion prize on a Lotto Max ticket from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) in a draw last June. Each member is listed in the civil lawsuit launched by Philip Tsotsos, who's seeking $70,000 and costs including interest, and is fighting to be declared the 17th member on the winning ticket.

Tsotsos, now a pizza delivery driver, was working with an auto-parts delivery company where the group lottery pool was organized.

In a statement of defence released Thursday, the group says because Tsotsos didn't pay or make arrangements to pay, he didn't participate in that particular pool draw and should not get any part of the winnings.

Their lawyer, David Robins, said they follow a strict "pay-to-play rule."

The "claim to a portion of the lottery prize is merely a desperate afterthought from a regretful, troubled and jealous person," says the defence statement.

Man claims pool operated on credit system

Tsotsos previously told CBC News that he didn't always pay for the tickets right away, but the pool operated on a credit system and at times in the past, he had owed up to $100 and always paid it off. He said that in the six years he's taken part in the pool, he's never been cut off.

Jacob Barker/CBC
Jacob Barker/CBC

When Tsotsos spoke with CBC News at the end of April, he said he was "close friends" with the group members and showed text message exchanges he claims prove he agreed to remain in the group, despite not having paid.

According to the statement of defence, the last exchange of text messages between Tsotsos and a member of the group prior to the winning draw took place June 14, and there were three draws that took place after that date, including the winning draw, without Tsotsos's involvement.

This is a story of an injustice. That is our response to this idea that it's jealousy. It's not jealousy. We're trying to right a wrong, and hopefully bring some healing here. - Joe De Luca, lawyer for Philip Tsotsos

The group denies every allegation Tsotsos made in the statement of claim, including that they were "close" or "good" friends.

"I think they're very disappointed that somebody who purports to be their friend has started a lawsuit and has gone to the media to spill out a story that would somehow suggest that they didn't treat him fairly, without telling the full circumstances of his situation, and that he was incommunicado for weeks before the draw and for months following the draw," Robins told CBC News in an interview.

In response to this, Tsotsos's lawyer, Joe De Luca, told CBC News on Friday that that's "misleading."

The statement of defence claims Tsotsos took part in the group's lottery pool "from time to time" since it began in 2015 at the auto-parts delivery store.

It says Tsotsos has been going through "serious personal and financial issues," and failed to pay back people who lent him money.

The defence statement says Tsotsos owed $40 from previous draws to the organizer of the group pool, Steven Todesco, but he never paid those off. It claims the last draw he actually paid for was in May 2021.

Jennifer La Grassa/CBC
Jennifer La Grassa/CBC

When it came to the June 22, 2021, draw, the group says, Tsotsos was not part of the pool "because he did not ask to be included, he did not pay any money to play [and] he was still indebted to Todesco for money he loaned the plaintiff to play in four prior draws."

It also says that before the big win, in a text message to a group member, Tsotsos hinted he was going through personal issues.

After that, the group claims, no one heard from Tsotsos for months.

De Luca commented on the defence statement citing Tsotsos's personal issues, saying it has been painful for his client.

"I do know that it's been a nightmare for Phil. And in retrospect for me it's really stunning because Phil predicted all of this. He said, 'They're gonna go for the jugular,'" said De Luca.

"This is a story of an injustice. That is our response to this idea that it's jealousy. It's not jealousy. We're trying to right a wrong, and hopefully bring some healing here."

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