A Windsor, Ont., man is accusing his friends of betraying him after he won a million dollars in the lottery last summer, and now the case is likely headed to civil court.
“Why don’t they tell me they won?” says Philip Tsotsos. “These guys are like family to me.”
Last June, 16 members of a group from Windsor won a $1 million Maxmillion prize on an Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) Lotto Max ticket. Each person is listed in the lawsuit that Tsotsos launched in civil court.
He is suing for $70,000 and other costs, including interest. He also fights to be declared the 17th member on the winning ticket.
“Their dreams have come true. Why should they steal mine?” said Tsotsos.
Defense attorney David Robins, who represents the group of 16, commented briefly when asked to respond to the allegations in Tsotsos’ statement.
“Mr. Tsotsos did not pay to play, so we deny that he is entitled to the relief he seeks, and we will vigorously defend his claim,” Robins said. “In this case, he didn’t play and he wasn’t included.”
Robins has yet to file a defense brief, but said he will do so in the coming weeks.
Tsotsos, a pizza delivery driver, said he recently quit his job at an auto parts delivery company but remained in the lottery pool with his co-workers. He said the pool was suspended during the pandemic in 2020, but resumed in March 2021.
“I was approached in June, saying, ‘Phil, there’s a major. Do you want to participate? Of course I’m in,” he said.
Tsotsos said he didn’t always pay for tickets upfront, but the pool operated on a credit system and he sometimes owed up to $100 and always paid. He said that in the six years he competed in the pool, he never got cut.
“The pool operated on an opt-out basis,” the statement read.
“If a member chooses to go out, they should inform the organizer.”
The court record indicates that the disqualification of a person from the class should be done with clear communication.
wear a tab
At the time of the draw in June, Tsotsos said he was wearing a $30 tab. According to the court document, the group’s organizer, Steven Todesco, said in a text message to Tsotsos that to stay in the group, he would have to repay the $30 and put another $10 into the pool – an agreement that he said he could prove with text messages.
“This Friday I will, 40 years,” read a message from Tsotsos to Todesco that was transcribed into the court filing.
“I actually won’t have to pay you anything. Just take it out of our winnings when we win,” he continued.
“Ha, OK, but I charge interest, high interest. I have kids to feed lol,” Todesco replied, according to the statement.
In another text exchange with Jessie Reid, who Tsotsos says would help Todesco run the pool, Reid reminds Tsotsos to pay $10 to stay, to which Tsotsos replies that he’s in.
“Ok I just wanted it in writing before the draw lol,” said Reid’s alleged text.
Learned how to earn on social media
Tsotsos said he cooked for the others in the pool and would bring them pizza. The day he learned of the victory, which was announced in October 2021, he said, he had just brought them a free pizza.
“I logged on and was browsing social media and what’s going on. The same guy that’s eating my pizza is holding a check for a million dollars, and that’s how I found out,” he said. -he declares.
“How would you feel?” It hurts more than anything.
The winning ticket split 16 ways netted each member of the band about $62,500 each, Tsostos said in an interview with CBC. It would have been a little less if Tsotsos had been included.
“We would have all made $58,000. That’s all a difference of $4,500,” he said.
“It’s crap what they’re doing to me. I don’t wish them anything bad. I only wish them success in life, but why ruin my dream?”
When asked if any of his clients considered Tsotsos a friend, Robins said he wondered how relevant that would be to the litigation.
“These relationships and their existence to the extent that Mr. Tsotsos thought they existed is something to be determined,” Robins said.
“I am not at liberty to comment on who Mr. Tsotsos thought he was his friend and was not his friend, except to suggest that friends do not sue friends.”
How to avoid lottery problems
Joseph De Luca, Tsostsos’ attorney, said they were speaking out to stress the importance of protecting themselves when entering a group lottery situation.
“It’s regulated and there are forms available, and this kind of problem can be avoided.”
De Luca was referring to Play Smart cards downloadable from OLG’s website. The cards help you keep records of who pays and how they pay, and include suggestions – such as choosing a party captain, planning ahead, keeping good records and protecting tickets.
“I don’t want anyone else going through this,” Tsotsos added.
De Luca said he and his client attempted to settle after their statement was filed with the court, and that there were further attempts at negotiations.
“Nothing has worked out yet,” the lawyer said, adding that they were still trying to settle out of court.
Robins said he was not pursuing any options outside of legal proceedings and would file a defense in the coming weeks.