Woman who won $1.3 million jackpot lost all winnings after keeping lottery win secret from husband

A woman who won a huge lottery jackpot was forced to give it away after a court ruled against her.
To make matters worse, she had to give it away to her ex-husband as part of their divorce proceedings after she kept her win secret from him.

Ooh, that’s gotta hurt.

There’s loads of stories about people who have won big on the lottery and then blown it all on excess and luxury, but there aren’t that many who have had to give it straight away to someone who they’ve just decided that they no longer want to have a relationship with.

Denise Rossi won the lottery in California 11 days before she filed for divorce from her husband, Thomas Rossi on 28 December, 1996.
The pair had been married for 25 years, but this lottery win came at exactly the wrong time.

When the case eventually got to court, a judge ruled that Ms Rossi had violated laws on disclosure of assets and funds and acted in fraud or malice.

To be fair, $1.3 million is a lot to not tell the court about, especially if you only just won the lottery.

In her court documents, she argued that she didn’t want her husband ‘getting his hands on’ her winnings.

It’s easy to understand that impulse, too.

Mr Rossi didn’t find out about the win until around two years after the divorce when he got a letter from a company that pays lump sums for lottery winnings.

The letter was addressed to his ex-wife, and said that the company had ‘helped hundreds of lottery winners like you around the country receive a lump-sum payment for the present value of their future annual lottery payments’.

Mr Rossi’s attorney Mark Lerner said: "I think he scratched his head for a while, saying: 'What? This can't be.”

So, he obtained an injunction a few days later and took his former wife to court.

There, they ruled that his ex-wife must pay him 20 annual instalments of $66,800, although Ms Rossi’s attorney called the ruling ‘very punitive’.
The winnings were shared between Ms Rossi and five of her co-workers, who won the $6.6 million prize together.

Connolly Oyler, her attorney, said that if she’d have disclosed her win to him, he might have been able to help her keep the winnings.

"I could have argued successfully that it was her separate property," he said.

"Or we could have argued and we would have reached some adjustment.

“But the judge got mad and gave it all to him."

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