By PETER CHENEY
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
The winner of the biggest individual jackpot in Canadian history says in new court documents that he owes nothing to his third wife.
In a legal document that amounts to a changing of the door locks, Raymond Sobeski charges that Nynna Ionson, whom he married in 1998, isn't entitled to a penny of the $30-million he collected after winning the Super 7 lottery.
The Defendant acquired his wealth through sheer fortuity after cohabitation and the end of the parties' marriage, Mr. Sobeski says in a statement of defence that is expected to be filed on Monday.
It would be unconscionable if the Plaintiff is entitled to an equalization payment of any amount or kind.
Ms. Ionson has gone to court seeking half of the jackpot.
Mr. Sobeski's court document is the latest development in a twisted personal and legal saga that has unfolded since he emerged in April to collect his huge win, just days before the ticket was to expire.
Mr. Sobeski, a computer consultant and farmer who lived in the Woodstock, Ont., area, bought his winning ticket in April of 2003 and learned of his win just days later, but kept it secret for almost a year. When he was asked why he had waited so long to come forward, Mr. Sobeski replied that he had spent the time planning: I thought it was in my best interest to keep to myself until I had everything sorted out, he said at a press conference.
When asked about his marital status, Mr. Sobeski told the press that he was single, and that there was no significant other in his life. After leaving the Ontario Lottery Corporation offices that day, Mr. Sobeski went to Woodstock, where he spent the night with Ms. Ionson at the Quality Inn, yet failed to mention that he had just collected $30-million.
Now at issue is whether Ms. Ionson is entitled to part of Mr. Sobeski's jackpot.
In a statement of claim filed in May, she charged that she and Mr. Sobeski were married in 1998, and that they had an unusual relationship that continued long after his win.
Early developments suggest that there may be merit to Ms. Ionson's claim: On May 5, an Ontario court seized Mr. Sobeski's entire win pending the outcome of the court case. The amount was revised to $15-million the amount of Ms. Sobeski's claim.
Mr. Sobeski's just-issued statement of defence paints a far different picture of the marriage than the one proffered by Ms. Ionson, a mother of four who lives in a subsidized house in Woodstock. Mr. Sobeski claims that the marriage lasted only six days, from Dec. 10, 1998, until Dec. 16 of the same year. Mr. Sobeski claims that he entered the marriage on the understanding that Ms. Ionson would sign a contract, only to have her skate away from her promise: Having previously been married, he had made it clear to the Plaintiff that he would not marry her without a signed marriage contract, ensuring that they would remain separate as to property and support, the statement of defence reads.
The actual contract, however, was not ready for signing before Dec. 10, 1998, the date on which the Plaintiff insisted on getting married. Acting on the Plaintiff's agreement that she would sign the contract immediately after their marriage, the Defendant reminded the Plaintiff about her promise to sign the contract. In response, the Plaintiff told him she wouldn't sign it.
Mr. Sobeski says his response to Ms. Ionson was categorical: As a result, the Defendant told the Plaintiff that as far as he was concerned, the marriage was over. . .
A key element of the legal dispute between Mr. Sobeski and Ms. Ionson is a divorce proceeding instituted by Mr. Sobeski. Ms. Ionson says that Mr. Sobeski served her with divorce papers well after he learned of his lottery win.
In any dvent, Ms. Ionson refused to sign the divorce documents delivered to her. Mr. Sobeski was granted a divorce in February of 2004, nearly 10 months after he learned of his win, and just two months before his lottery ticket was to expire.
Mr. Sobeski's court filing insists that any claims by Ms. Ionson must be based on his net worth at the time of their marriage in 1998, not today. In financial disclosure documents to be filed with the court, Mr. Sobeski says that his net worth in 1998 was $4,500. His sole assets at the time, the documents show, were $2,500 worth of furniture and household items and a 1998 Chevrolet Caprice valued at $2,000. Mr. Sobeski also owned a 1998 Jeep, but listed its value as nil.
The documents also gave an insight into his current circumstances. Mr. Sobeski listed $721,000 in a personal account at the Royal Bank of Canada, and $26.1-million held in investment accounts at the bank. The documents also revealed sharply increased support payment to his second wife, Sherry Sobeski, who cares for their two children. According to the court filing, Mr. Sobeski now pays $7,500 per month in child support.
Alfred Mamo, a London lawyer who represents Ms. Ionson, said his client was saddened but not surprised by the direction affairs have taken: She's not surprised with the position he's taken, because she was with him when he went through with litigation against his second wife. But she's holding up well. She's confident that the truth will come out.
Mr. Mamo says a judge will be the final arbiter. Mr. Sobeski acknowledges that there was a relationship. The case will revolve on what the real nature of what that relationship was.
Mr. Mamo says the dvents of April 1, when Mr. Sobeski collected his money, then headed to Woodstock to see Ms. Ionson, should be borne in mind when considering the case: When he won, she was the person he ran to, he said. I think that tells you something.