Lottery winner penniless after blowing through $10.5 million

Mar 25, 2013, 9:08 am (103 comments)

After the Big Win

Nine years after cashing her $10,569,000.10 check, Canadian lotto winner Sharon Tirabassi is catching the Barton Street bus to her part-time job. She's working to support her kids in their rented house in northeast Hamilton, Ontario.

Tirabassi, 35 — one of this city's biggest lotto winners — has gone from rolling in dough to living pay check to pay check.

The Lotto Super7 payout didn't come with a financial adviser and before she knew it — big house, fancy cars, designer clothes, lavish parties, exotic trips, handouts to family, loans to friends — the money was gone.

"You don't think it'll go (at the time), right?" she says.

She'd check her account now and again, but there were always so many zeroes that she figured it was fine — until one day there was just three quarters of a million left.

"And that was time for fun to stop and to just go back to life," she says.

She's happier today. Says life has more purpose now than when she was shopping.

She's working part-time as a personal support worker and raising her six kids in a rented downtown house off Barton and Sherman.

Her husband, Vinny, also 35, has another three kids from a previous relationship.

Asked about how life turned out for them, Vinny shrugs, smoking a cigarette in the doorway of their rented home.

"I lived like this my whole life, I never was rich," he says. "We grew up like this, so we're used to it."

Pretty much all that's left now is in trust for her kids when they turn 26 — her children will be OK, and that's what's important to her.

"The moment I got it, I divided it among my family ... all of that other stuff was fun in the beginning, now it's like ... back to life," she says.

Before her win, Tirabassi had been living in an east Hamilton apartment with her three kids, each one from a different father.

She was Sharon Mentore then — not yet married. She had just landed a job as a personal care provider, fresh off welfare, and couldn't afford a car.

But on Easter Weekend in April 2004, she literally hit the jackpot and won $10.5 million from a Lotto Super7 ticket.

For someone who spent her teenage years bouncing around from shelter to shelter, she was unprepared for the millionaire lifestyle. That check might as well have been a money tree in the yard — it felt like cash for life.

Suddenly, life was but a dream.

She took friends on wild, all-expenses paid trips to Cancun, Florida, Las Vegas, California, the Caribbean.

She bought a house on West 5th, and she married Vinny.

In 2006, the newlyweds and blended Tirabassi family moved to a massive $515,000 home on Kitty Murray Lane in Ancaster.

Despite cashing a $10.5 million check just two years earlier, Tirabassi took out a $360,000 mortgage on the house.

The pair, Vinny says, owned four vehicles: a bright yellow Hummer, a Mustang, a Dodge Charger and a $200,000-plus, souped-up Cadillac Escalade — Tirabassi's baby.

Her customized licence plate read "BABIPHAT," after one of her favorite designer clothing lines.

Ancaster neighbours hated that Cadillac. Equipped with interior turntables and sound mixers, it blared hip-hop music in the driveway and shook their quiet suburban street.

Tirabassi didn't like her neighbours.

"They didn't like young people," she says.

Besides the extravagant vehicles, a lot of the cash went to family and friends.

Too much, she admits now.

She gave her parents $1 million.

Another $1.75 million was divided among her four siblings.

She bought several houses in the city, renting them out at affordable rates to families. She said she paid people's rent. Lent money to help out a friend when her husband went to jail. Helped another two friends start up a business in Toronto.

A lot of friends came out of the woodwork when news broke of her win — and a lot of them she never heard from again.

"Money is the root of all evil," she says, shaking her head.

Vinny agrees.

"Friends that she hadn't talked to in a long time came calling."

"Money doesn't buy you happiness. It caused her a lot of headaches," he says.

"She lost a lot of friends, a lot of family."

By 2007, according to an interview at the time, Tirabassi had already blown through half of her winnings, and was living off interest from investments on the other $5 million.

Also that year, Vinny crashed the Mustang.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of driving impaired and causing bodily harm. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail plus two years' probation. And his licence was revoked for five years.

He would serve time again in 2011 after breaching his conditions and driving with a disqualified license.

In 2008, while he was in jail, the Tirabassis lost the Ancaster house.

From there, they moved to Hagersville, then out west to Edmonton once Vinny was out of jail.

They moved around a lot and today, Hamilton's penniless millionaires are back downtown, living in a rented house on a quiet industrial street — not far from where she started.

It's modest, the walls covered in family photos and the odd relic from their flashier days — Michael Jackson memorabilia for her, Maple Leafs memorabilia for him.

They have two cats and a rabbit named Princess.

The Tirabassis are worried about people knowing where they live now. Their win didn't make them a lot of friends, and they're worried about being robbed.

"A lot of people do still think she has lots of money," Vinny said.

Between the two of them, there are nine kids. Three each from previous relationships, and three more together.

The Dodge Charger and the Hummer are nowhere in sight on their new street. She drives a hot pink electric bike these days, when she's not taking the bus.

The Cadillac's in storage; it needs work done that she can't afford right now.

A lot of friends are gone too.

People took advantage of them, didn't pay them back when they loaned them money.

"(They said) 'they've got enough so they're OK, right?'" Vinny said.

Hamilton resident Gayle Zolaturiuk accepted a $30 million check from the OLG last week, and local convenience store owner Myungsu You is waiting to collect his $16.1 million on March 22.

If the Tirabassis can give Zolaturiuk and You one piece of advice as they collect their wins, it's to be wary of whom you share it with.

"Try to keep it to yourself. Keep it to yourself and don't trust anybody but family," Tirabassi says.

But as she heads to work in her scrubs Wednesday, she says she couldn't help giving so much away.

"That's the way I was brought up. Help those who can't help themselves," she says with a shrug.

Rather than mourn the millions, she's concentrating now on raising her kids with those same family values.

"I'm trying to get them to learn that they have to work for money," Tirabassi says.

"Every so often they ask for money and I say I don't have any money till payday. You have to wait 'til payday."

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

Thanks to GAMBLIN QUEEN for the tip.

Spectator, Lottery Post Staff



One Word: Sad.

dallascowboyfan's avatardallascowboyfan

Future winners please seek advise before you claim your winnings. Well on the bright side at least she did get a trust set up for her kids.

pickone4me's avatarpickone4me

Don't annoy your neighbors with hip hop-rap rubbish CRAP either.

RedStang's avatarRedStang

I feel worse for the Cadillac.

buttercake's avatarbuttercake

Silly woman with no brains.

dallascowboyfan's avatardallascowboyfan

Quote: Originally posted by RedStang on Mar 25, 2013

I feel worse for the Cadillac.

I Agree! why would you do that to a CaddyNo No

savagegoose's avatarsavagegoose

lol right on the tail of the $2 mill uk winner who blew it. hope who ever won the  recent powerball reads LP


I guess the old saying that a fool and their money are soon parted is true.    Newbie here I've stalked around the board and never posted just wanted to say hi.


Quote: Originally posted by TylerD67 on Mar 25, 2013

I guess the old saying that a fool and their money are soon parted is true.    Newbie here I've stalked around the board and never posted just wanted to say hi.

Welcome TylerD67

bjones$'s avatarbjones$

very stupid.

joshuacloak's avatarjoshuacloak

bling bling

the big spender is her issue

a lot of lottery winners i find are just clueless about how to invest money

they should be getting richer ever year

grow 10m into 20m in 10 years, etc

not lose 10m in a few years

the majority of wealthy people spend below their means


yes this means the 2 million bucks or more spenders a year rich people, that these lottery winners try to copy

have like 50M PLUS in investments earning more, they keep getting more wealthy ever year

if u want to act rich, u better have investments to support it, lottery winners as a group, are freaking clueless in this department of thinkin


its just lottery winners are really idiots with money. u dump anyone with large amount of money, with no freaking idea how to invest it

and they start spending like it, but not invest it, its mind blowing how stupid lottery winners are

its so easy to go, if that was "me" i never waste it, in thinking terms

but truth is, must of people saying that, have not a clue how to invest and earn millions 

the truth is, even if they win over 100m in cash, if u have wrong thinkin, u blow it all,


am sure in shock how Jack Whittaker was a muti millioner before winning lottery"so u would think he would know how to handle it, WRONG"

then he wins 315m " lump sum of $113 million after taxes.:" and manages to blow that,and leave a trail of  ruin in hes money path


people just don't have a freaking clue............................

lottery the greatest experiment of "what's see what happens when we give stupid people millions"   its going to end badly, very Very badly.......... but is fun to watch, in sense of u cant help but look at the train wreck going down........... bad beyond belief  yes, amazing to watch, hell yes..............



ofc there tons of smart people who play also,and when they win, we won't hear the horror stories,  smartest winners are ones we don't know about,and who are more rich  then when they first hit jackpot

but they never end up in news......................


so i just got these morons to make funGreen laugh

rdgrnr's avatarrdgrnr

Ancaster neighbours hated that Cadillac. Equipped with interior turntables and sound mixers, it blared hip-hop music in the driveway and shook their quiet suburban street.

Tirabassi didn't like her neighbours.

"They didn't like young people," she says.

LOL, no, sweetheart, it wasn't young people they didn't like, it was boneheads like you and your husband they didn't like, who didn't have any respect for people who worked hard for everything they have and didn't want to deal with their windows rattling from inconsiderate low-lifes like you, blasting your annoying music in their quiet neighborhood and thinking you're cool. Which you ain't.

I'm glad you lost it cuz boneheads like you don't deserve it.


Obviously this woman was not the brightest bulb in the factory, I get sad hearing how someone blew a large sum of money and has nothing to show for it.  After all she will not be the first nor last lottery winner to buy a bunch of stuff she doesn't need, feud with her neighbors and go broke.  To bad she never bothered to learn about how money works and what being rich is versus being wealthy.

dallascowboyfan's avatardallascowboyfan

"For someone who spent her teenage years bouncing around from shelter to shelter" why would she give her parents $1million if they were not in her lifeWhat? they allowed her to live in shelters they are not worthy parentsNo No

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