Take a barber, a handyman and the handyman's sister, add one lottery ticket and $32 million, and what do you have? A lawsuit and siblings no longer speaking to each other.
Sam Haddad and his longtime friend and barber Mike Dettorre won $32 million with a Lotto 6/49 ticket in June 2008. It made for a great story: Dettorre had been cutting Haddad's hair for more than 30 years and the men often bought tickets together, sticking them on the mirror in Dettorre's Old Ottawa South barber shop until it was time to check for a winner.
Lottery tickets were a bit of a compulsion for Haddadthe self-employed floor installer estimates he has bought "thousands" over the years. He even took a couple of garbagebags full of them to Toronto to dance around in when he and Dettorre collected their winnings at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming office.
With them that day were their wives, children and extended family, including Haddad's sister, Leila Nahas. About 35 of them had travelled by limousine down Highway 401 for the celebration. Haddad, who was 57 at the time of the win, says he later gave some prize money to family members, including his sister.
That much of the story seems to be fact, agreed upon by both sides. Where things get murky is the question of who paid for the winning ticket, and who should reap the rewards. Because the fight is still in the courts, neither side would speak about the case, but the facts in dispute can be found in court documents.
Nahas says that she paid $1 toward the winning ticket. According to her statement of claim, filed in January, 2010, Haddad visited her store just before the June 28 draw and mentioned he and Dettorre were going to be playing the same set of numbers they had played before.
Nahas says she asked to split the ticket cost with Haddad and he agreed. She alleges that she asked her brother to put her name on the ticket once he had bought it. She then wrote down the numbers to be played on a slip of paper and put it in her wallet.
When Haddad won the lottery, Nahas says, she assumed he had won with another one of his tickets, because he "had told her he purchased many tickets for the same jackpot elsewhere," according to her statement of claim.
It wasn't until two months later that Nahas found the slip of paper with the winning numbers in her wallet, and "realized she was owed one third of the proceeds from the winning ticket."
After that, both sides agree, things got very unpleasant.
Nahas visited Haddad at his home, stated her case, and words were exchanged. According to Nahas, her brother threatened to ruin her reputation in their (formerly) close family, told her "she was 'dead to him'" and has not spoken to her since. Her response was to sue for a third of the winnings.
Haddad vigorously denies just about everything in his sister's claim, from even being in her store around the time of the draw, to having any discussion about sharing the cost of a ticket or showing her the numbers he was playing. Haddad says there was never an agreement and he has not denied his sister anything, nor did he issue any threats. He does say, however, that his sister became angry during the confrontation and he eventually had to tell her to leave his home.
Haddad wants the case dismissed, and has asked the court to order Nahas to pay his legal costs.
Dettorre is not part of the legal fight, although he stands to lose some of his winnings if the court finds that Nahas does have a claim to one-third of the pot.
Both sides have filed their statements, and their lawyers have completed examination for discovery. The next step is a settlement conference, where both sides meet with a judge.
Lawyers for Haddad and Nahas declined to comment on the case, and instructed their clients not to talk, either.
"We're in the middle of litigation and we can't be doing media interviews," says Lawrence Greenspon, representing Haddad.
The lesson in this for lottery players?
"Group plays are group plays, whether it's with family, co-workers or friends," says Tony Bitonti, spokesman for OLG.
"The key is communication within that group. Treat it as a financial transaction. If you are giving someone money to provide you with a product, make sure you get a receipt -in this case, a copy of the ticket."