Winning the lottery can be a life-changing experience for any happily married couple. Unfortunately, for other married couples it will more likely be the final nail in the coffin and result in all hell breaking loose. Sadly, the story of Denise Rossi is one of these stories, for what could’ve been a happy occasion turned sour when she decided that winning the lottery would be her ticket out of 25 years of marriage.
Who Are Denise and Thomas Rossi?
Denise and Thomas Rossi were a happily married couple that lived in California since they decided to get hitched way back in 1971. The two seemed to live a fairly happy life, and everybody that knew them spoke of how they did everything together. In fact, Thomas is on record admitting that the two even shared an electric toothbrush together-how close can you be?
The thing that changed their idyllic lifestyle was when Denise’s co-worker, Bernadette Quercio, formed a lottery pool with five other co-workers, including Denise.
Denise’s Stealthy Win
Denise jumped at the chance to enter a lottery pool and happily contributed her $5 a week to the pool. She and her co-workers’ luck all changed on December 17, 1996. The group of co-workers struck gold and won the California lottery jackpot of $6.68 million. Bernadette called Denise and shared the great news, stating that she was entitled to $1.336 million, which would be paid out over 20 years. This meant that she would receive $66,800 (less taxes) annually from 1996 all the way through to 2015.
The Quick Divorce
A mere 11 days later, Thomas was shocked when his wife unexpectedly filed for divorce. Denise stated that she had been unhappy in the marriage for a long time and urged Thomas to sign the divorce papers and get the divorce finalised quickly. However, one thing that Denise failed to mention during the divorce proceedings was the fact that she had won the lottery.
The divorce was finalised shortly after being filed in the court, and the two went on their own way, with Thomas dumbfounded and heartbroken.
A Mistaken Address
The two kept to themselves for just over a year. In 1998, Thomas filed for bankruptcy after having to close down his own photography development studio. Then, perchance, he received a piece of mail addressed to his ex-wife. The letter was from a company that specialised in lottery payouts and wanted to know if Denise would be interested in a lump-sum payout of her winnings.
Thomas, knowing nothing of any lottery winnings, contacted the California lottery to find out what it was all about. The lottery confirmed that his ex-wife was the winner of a lottery back in December 1996. Almost immediately, Thomas filed an injunction in the courts.
The Ruse Comes to an End
Denise was summoned to court for failing to disclose marital assets during the divorce proceedings. As a defence, she argued two points. The first was that the lottery winnings were a gift from Bernadette. She claimed that she had withdrawn from the lottery pool shortly before the group had won the jackpot and that Bernadette had given her a share of the winnings as a gift.
When the court did not accept this, she claimed that she was unaware of the law to disclose the money as, in her opinion, the money was hers and her husband would merely try and take it away from her due to his own financial problems. It goes without saying that the court did not accept this as a reason either, and she was found guilty of withholding assets during a divorce proceeding.
What Did It Cost Denise?
After finding her guilty of knowingly hiding her winnings from the parties involved in the divorce, the court decided to teach Denise a lesson on what the consequences of withholding information are. Believe it or not, but the court awarded the full winning amount of $1.336 million to Thomas! This amount would be paid by transferring all remaining payments from the lottery to Thomas. Money that had already been paid out to Denise would have to be paid by her-regardless of whether or not she had already spent it.
The End of the Line
After the verdict was handed down, Thomas was emotional-in a positive way this time-and his attorneys confirmed that he actually shed a few tears as the court was ruling on the case. Denise, however, was shocked at the outcome of the case and immediately told her lawyers that she wanted to file an appeal. The lawyers allegedly said to her that if she had simply told them about the money from the start, they might have been able to keep all the money for her by claiming separation of assets.
Unfortunately for Denise, whether due to her lack of legal knowledge or because of spite, she ended up losing not only a husband that many testified she was happy with but also all the winnings that she was lucky enough to receive that December. Like many other lottery winners’ stories, this one proves that honesty is generally the best policy. And, just as Gloria Mackenzie learned, it also serves as a warning that when big sums of money are involved, it's hard to trust anyone-even your family.