Denise Robertson, 46, and her boyfriend, Maurice Thibeault, 46, reportedly agreed that if they ever won the lottery they would buy a large property in the country where they could fix up muscle cars.
As CBC News reports, the Canadian couple had lived together for two-and-a-half years and, according to Robertson, had bought lottery tickets “almost their entire relationship.”
On Sept. 20, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. announced that two winning Lotto 6/49 tickets had been sold for the $12 million jackpot — one in Chatham, where the couple lived, and one in Quebec.
Robertson messaged Thibeault about the possibility that one of the tickets was theirs. If so, they stood to win half of the prize money — $6.1 million. According to part of a text message conversation filed in court, Robertson asked:
Robertson: Did you buy a 649 tix for last night?
Robertson: OMG …check it!!
Thibeault: I will need to check my ticket.
After informing Thibeault that two winning tickets had been sold, Robertson joked that she would “start planning the floor plan of the house.” According to court documents, however, once Thibeault arrived home he “made it clear” they did not win, per CBC News.
According to The Toronto Star, friends claim Robertson thought nothing of the exchange over the lottery ticket until Thibeault moved out of their house. On Sept. 25, Robertson came home to find that Thibeault had cleared out all of his belongings, including his passport.
Robertson then learned from a mutual friend her boyfriend had also quit his job — and won the lottery. Thibeault reportedly texted his boss a photo of the winning ticket and a colleague announced the news via email to the company.
A woman came home from work to find her live-in boyfriend had taken off and was trying to cash in a $6 million prize https://t.co/wKkwJ84O0P
— Metro News Canada (@MetroNewsCanada) October 12, 2017
A person close to Robertson speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Star:
“She couldn’t believe it.”
In an affidavit, Robertson said she may have been tipped off to the winnings earlier:
“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.”
By the time Thibeault showed up to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming prize center in Toronto to collect his winnings, Robertson had already obtained an emergency court injunction to stop the payout.
According to Tony Bitonti, senior manager of media relations for Ontario Lottery and Gaming, prizes over $1,000 are subject to review:
“The prize claim process is a process OLG would have followed regardless of whether there was an injunction or not.
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.
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.”
Robertson says she is entitled to half of the $6.1 million because throughout her relationship with Thibeault, the couple took turns buying tickets every week.
Thibeault’s allies, however, contend that Thibeault is the owner of the winning ticket as it was purchased with a debit card linked to his personal account, and there is a receipt to prove the transaction.
The sources further assert Thibeault had been planning to leave his girlfriend for months and was able to do so once he “got lucky” and won the lottery, according to the Star.
Ontario Lottery and Gaming said it will announce the winner once it has determined who owns the ticket.