To the Lotto Max winners: Here’s what not to do

A storm of trouble seems to befall those who win big jackpots



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Two winners are taking home the largest lottery prize in Canadian history today. John Henry, a retired human resources manager from Mississauga, Ont., and Joan Patterson, a rancher from Desboro, Ont., each won the $60-million Lotto Max prize.

What do they hope to do with the money? Both have plans to donate to charitable foundations (or start their own) and go on vacation (Kentucky Derby, anyone?)

However, as we’re continually reminded by the press, tragedy always seems to befall those who hit it big on a lottery ticket. These recent Canadian sweepstake winners have all shared their sob stories. Let’s hope Henry and Patterson avoid the pitfalls these past victors experienced.

Squandered it

Nine years after winning $10.6 million, Sharon Tirabassi of Hamilton, Ont., wound up back where she started: working small jobs, riding the bus and living in a rented house. Back in 2013, Tirabassi told the Hamilton Spectator she simply wasn’t paying attention to what spent. Instead, she just indulged on a “big house, fancy cars, designer clothes, lavish parties, exotic trips, handouts to family, (and) loans to friends.”

Lost his job

Most people dream of winning the lottery and leaving behind working life forever—but not Craig Henshaw of Markham, Ont. Teaching was his passion, but when he won $21 million in 2010 he was all but forced to resign from the high school he worked at. Colleagues he’d considered friends immediately began harassing him for money to the point where it became untenable for him to be in the workplace. “Unfortunately, I’ve had to say goodbye to about 25% of my friends because they were acting really inappropriately,” Henshaw told the Toronto Star at the time. “They were asking for money, and being really pushy about it.”

Targeted by scammers

When Allen and Violet Large of Lower Truro, N.S., won $11.25 million back in 2009, they immediately announced they were giving away most of their jackpot to charity. For their benevolence, they found themselves continually targeted by scammers while Violet was dying of cancer. “We’ve been harassed for over a year, ever since we won,” Allen told the Chronicle Herald in 2010. “How can you deal with it without getting bitter?”

Got arrested

Barry Shell of Brampton, Ont., thought it was his lucky day when he found out he’d won a $4.4 million jackpot. But that all ended after he claimed his prize. The lottery authorities, who had discovered Shell was wanted for theft, informed local police who immediately arrested Shell and took him to jail.

If you’re still not deterred, check out the secret formula for how to win the lottery.

This article was originally published January 2015. 


4 comments on “To the Lotto Max winners: Here’s what not to do

  1. Chances of winning the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket? Zero. So I’ll take odds of 1 in several million and still believe it could be me. As the old saying goes, “You’ve got to be in it to win it.” Frankly, it’s all down to luck. Nothing else really counts. So I’ve made up a little free and just-for-fun page which generates your own personal ‘lucky’ quick pick numbers. Who knows, it might work – you just never know your luck… As I say, it is completely free and just a bit of fun, so look out for VillaLibra Lucky Numbers if you want to see if you can locate it for yourself.


  2. 1. never claim the prize using your real name. Form a numbered company, and if you are legally required to appear to receive a large payment wear a disguise.
    2. winning a pile of money doesn’t make you instantly more financially savy than you were yesterday. Get advice. From more than one source. And from people who only offer advice for a fee but don’t actually sell any investment products.
    3. Unless you were living in an unsafe or unhealthy environment don’t change anything for at least 6 months. Making logical choices about the long term isn’t likely to happen in the euphoria of a fresh win.


  3. Arrange for a joint meeting with an respected estate/financial lawyer and a financial expert immediately after picking up your cheque. Deposit cheque right away in the bank for safety. Change and unlist your telephone number and get an elaborate home security system installed.. Pay off all household debt immediately, but withdraw a small percentage of winnings to have as fun/immediate travel money. Book a trip to get away and think about things. While away, make a serious list of priorities. Keep the principle money in the bank for at least 3-6 months after your win where you can gain interest while you figure the windfall out. Don’t touch the remainder of the money for at least 6 months.

    With the exception of the Canadian mandatory lotteries disclosure that has to publicize the win and publish your photo, shut down all of your social media accounts and don’t be saying “Hey all my 600 FB friends! I just won 60 million bucks!”.

    Set up a tax friendly charitable foundation, so any grifters or hard luck Charlie’s or Charlottes asking for money must go through your estate planner/lawyer for any money requests through you and the foundation. This takes you off the hook in referring the request to a third party and gives you tax breaks. The. You’re in the driver’s seat.

    Go far away for a bit to your fantasy location, enjoy and really think about things before living lavishly. The interest on the principle could be just enough to improve and/or sustain your current lifestyle. If your life was comfortable before the win, just improve it or sustain it without getting stupid in buying expensive toys, mansions or loaning money on the fly. Stay humble and keep true to yourself. Unless you live in a complete dive or hovel, don’t buy a new house yet.

    Talk to your lawyer and financial persons about gifting family money or goods and pay close attention to CRA rules.

    This is a one time opportunity to keep a nice windfall working for you and keeping a wealthy family legacy that will sustain generations to come if handled properly.

    Best thing ever is to keep most of the dough locked up for awhile until you come down from the high of winning. You survived before. The money will always be there when you’re ready and when common sense prevails.


  4. My Son wan the Lotomax on July 4th 2014…. the result! I don’t even know the person he has become nymore!!! I’m grieving as if my Son had died! He is gone…. doesn’t exist anymore!!!


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