News / Toronto

Six million dollar lottery prize in limbo after couple splits

A $6.1 million lottery prize is in limbo after a Chatham man, who recently split with his common-law spouse, tried to claim the Lotto 6/49 winnings without her.

Denise Robertson arrived home from work on Sept. 25 to find that Maurice Thibeault, a 46-year-old father of three, had cleared out all his belongings from their shared home, according to three people who know the couple.

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Denise Robertson arrived home from work on Sept. 25 to find that Maurice Thibeault, a 46-year-old father of three, had cleared out all his belongings from their shared home, according to three people who know the couple.

A $6.1-million lottery prize is in limbo after a court injunction prevented an Ontario man from cashing in a Lotto 6/49 ticket that his former live-in girlfriend claims is half hers.

Maurice Thibeault showed up at OLG’s Toronto prize centre recently with one of the two winning tickets in the Sept. 20 jackpot worth $12.2 million.

But before the Chatham resident could collect the money, Denise Robertson, 46, obtained an emergency court injunction and alerted OLG not to hand over the disputed millions.

Sources close to Robertson say she had asked Thibeault days earlier if the ticket — with the numbers 6, 17, 29, 37, 45, and 47 — had won and he responded it hadn’t.

Friends say she thought nothing of it until he moved out of her house five days after the draw.

Over their two years and one month of living together in her house — along with her teenage daughter from a previous marriage — the couple frequently played the lottery, alternating each week who would buy the tickets, said a source close to the long-time federal public servant.

Thibeault’s associates dispute that there was any such arrangement, pointing out he purchased the ticket at a Chatham convenience store using a debit card linked to his personal bank account.

Sources said the surveillance footage of him buying the winning ticket has been erased, but there is a bank receipt of the transaction.

They also said she texted him to ask only if he had bought a ticket, not whether their numbers had come up.

His friends also maintain he had been planning to separate from her for months and only managed to do so when he “got lucky” and won the lottery.

On Sept. 25, Robertson arrived home from work to find Thibeault, a 46-year-old father of three, had cleared out all his belongings from their shared home, according to three people who know the couple.

She then learned from mutual friends he had also quit his job at a local granite and glass supply company. A colleague had emailed the entire office that Thibeault had won, which is how she learned of the windfall.

“She couldn’t believe it,” said a person close to her, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Robertson contacted Windsor lawyer Anita Landry, who immediately phoned OLG headquarters in Toronto and obtained an injunction in a Windsor courtroom on Sept. 28.

“This motion, made without notice, by the plaintiff for an order that the defendant Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation not distribute the proceeds of the winning 6/49 lottery ticket from Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 in the amount of $6,146,722.60 until the ownership issue can be disposed of ,” the court document reads.

But the legal injunction wasn’t necessary — everything was put on hold as soon as the Crown gaming agency was aware there was a dispute surrounding the ownership of the ticket.

That means Robertson, who declined to comment through her lawyer, could be entitled to more than $3 million of the prize.

Thibeault — who is “laying low” in an undisclosed location until the matter is resolved, according to a friend — also declined to comment.

The other half of the $12.2 million bonanza was won by a ticket holder in Quebec.

OLG’s senior manager of media relations Tony Bitonti said there are very strict procedures surrounding the awarding of prizes.

“The prize claim process is a process OLG would have followed regardless of whether there was an injunction or not,” said Bitonti.

“Anyone or group presenting a ticket worth $1,000 or more is subject to the prize claim review process to determine ownership of the specific ticket. For prizes of $10,000 or more, this review process includes a mandatory in-person interview of the claimant conducted by an OLG prize claims investigator,” the spokesperson said.

“While OLG has key information about the ticket — where and when it was purchased, was it purchased with other lottery products, etc. — in addition, we ask the claimant certain questions about the ticket and the circumstances surrounding its purchase in order to confirm ownership,” he said.

“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. This further review can include interviewing other individuals with relevant information surrounding the prize claim.”

A prize is awarded only after OLG — which has revamped its procedures after ascandalsurrounding questionable insider wins a decade ago — completes its investigation.

OLG investigators sometimes examine months-old surveillance video from variety stores and gas stations where tickets are sold to determine buying patterns.

They use computerized “data analysis and retrieval technology” to analyze billions of transactions per second and can identify ticket purchase characteristics to thwart fraudsters.

But changes in human relationships can be tricky to track.

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