EDMONTON — An Edmonton oilfield worker is planning to disappear for a while with his $33-million lottery win now that a judge has ruled the money is legally his.
Mike Hayduk cashed in the winning Lotto Max ticket on April 28 but wasn’t given a cent because others came forward to claim the prize and tied the matter up in court.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Denny Thomas dismissed Wednesday the last of six claims from people who said they had purchased the ticket but it was lost or stolen.
Hayduk’s lawyer, Mark Olivieri, said his client had been stressed over the legal battle and the overwhelming responsibility of what to do with so much money.
“His head has been spinning ever since he won the big prize so he just needs some time to gather his thoughts and hopefully get some more legal advice.”
Hayduk is married with two children and “definitely needs” the money, said Olivieri.
He said some of the others fighting for the lottery prize simply made honest mistakes.
One man thought he lost the winning ticket in a friend’s car. Two believed they tossed it in the trash. And another pair of co-workers got nervous when the person in charge of their group lotto pool didn’t show up at the office for a few days.
They all dropped out of the civil case before it reached the judge.
Ted Baltoussen, the last man standing, told court last week he didn’t remember where he bought his ticket.
But when he went to check his numbers at a Mac’s convenience store, the clerk had wide eyes and looked nervous. He believes the clerk swiped his ticket and gave him back a losing one.
Baltoussen said he contacted the Western Canada Lottery Corp. about his concerns and didn’t know his name had been added to the court case.
He was prepared to fight it out, but the judge refused to hear more from him because he hadn’t filed the necessary court documents.
Thomas also criticized the lottery corporation for bringing such a flimsy case to court. He said the corporation should do a better job investigating the claims before asking the court to intervene.
Spokeswoman Andrea Marantz said the lottery corporation doesn’t have the power to compel people to give them information like the courts can.
She said few lotto wins actually end up before a judge, perhaps one each year. But with every draw, the higher the payout, the more people call with inquiries.
“We’ll have people say things to us like, ’It’s going to keep me up at night if I don’t know that it couldn’t have been mine.’ ”
Marantz said a lot of people think they have lost winning tickets. They’re questioned about where and when they bought their ticket, then assured they haven’t won.
“They’re kind of laughing at themselves. By far, the most are very legitimate and they just want some reassurance.”
Of course, there are scammers, she said. “Once people are confronted — ’Well, just a minute. We have pretty good indication that this wasn’t your ticket alone,’ or something like that — people will back off very quickly.”
Marantz said there used to be an unspoken “finders-keepers” rule with lottery tickets, but ownership is now defined at the point of purchase. That’s why lottery officials encourage players to sign the backs of their tickets as soon as they buy them.
“It would solve all these problems,” she said.