National Post

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Thursday, November 18, 1999

Lottery winner who duped husband must give all to him
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - A family court judge has ordered a woman to give her entire $1.3-million (US) lottery jackpot to her former husband because she kept it secret during their divorce.

The California State Lottery Commission confirmed that Denise Rossi won the money on Dec. 28, 1996 -- 11 days before she filed for divorce from Thomas Rossi after 25 years of marriage.

Superior Court Judge Richard Denner said Ms. Rossi violated state disclosure laws and determined that she acted out of fraud or malice. In court papers, she admitted to concealing her winnings because she didn't want her ex-husband "getting his hands on" them.

Mr. Rossi found out about the winnings more than two years after his divorce when he received a mailed solicitation from a company that pays lump sums for lottery winnings.

The letter, addressed to his wife, 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."

Lottery payments?

"I think he scratched his head for awhile, saying: 'What? This can't be,'" said Mr. Rossi's attorney, Mark Lerner. He obtained a court injunction a few days later. He said his shaky finances after the divorce made his former wife's secret "even more despicable."

As part of Tuesday's ruling, Ms. Rossi must pay her former husband 20 annual instalments of $66,800.

Ms. Rossi's lawyer, Connolly Oyler, called the judge's ruling "very punitive" and said his client will appeal.

Mr. Rossi, 65, said he and his former wife had a good relationship before the sudden divorce.

Ms. Rossi said she had been unhappy for years and was looking for a way out. She and five co-workers pooled their money to play the lottery and hit the jackpot, sharing $6.6-million, she said.

She has blamed her ignorance of the law for her failure to disclose the winnings, which she had mailed to her mother's address in Pleasant Hill in northern California. Mr. Oyler said he might have had a chance during the divorce to help Ms. Rossi keep the winnings if she had told him about them at the time.

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