Ontario woman sued by parents, fiancée after lottery win

A hand holding a coin on the top of a yellow scratch and win lottery ticket.
Stock photo by Getty Images

Winning the lottery doesn’t always change your life for the better. That was the case for an Ontario woman, whose $2-million jackpot led her to being sued by both her parents and former fiancée.

The whacky lawsuit, which featured testimony from a fortune-teller no less, ultimately ended with Orly Assa-Eliahu keeping her winnings. The family feud, however, will likely continue.

Assa-Eliahu was in her late 20s. She was divorced with one child and lived with her parents — Nisan and Malca. She was going to school to become a hairdresser, when she began dating Lionel Cohen, who was also divorced and working as a plumber at the time. Assa-Eliahu wanted to get married; Cohen not so much. They had thought about moving in together, but nothing had solidified.

Everything changed in June 2013 when Assa-Eliahu went to meet her accountant about her taxes. Her parents gave her their business debit card and told her to pick up some cigarettes from a convenience store on her way back, which she did. She also picked up a “Scratch and Win” Ontario lottery ticket. That was the ticket that won her a whopping $2 million. Later in June, Orly and Malca went to pick up the money. They even posed for a picture at the OLG office. The money went into Orly’s TD bank account.

She first cut $100,000-cheques for both her synagogue and that of her boyfriend’s, in an attempt to bless her winnings. She also paid $100,000 to a fortune teller — Yves Elancry. Before the win, the couple had gone to Elancry because Assa-Eliahu’s boyfriend had concerns that marrying a divorced woman would compromise his status as a “Cohen” and his Jewish faith. Elancry had mentioned they may win something.

Out of the lottery winnings, Orly also paid Cohen $30,000 to pay off his debt. She additionally paid $350,000 to her parents to pay off their mortgage. She also bought a three-week trip to Israel for her parents. She purchased another trip to Las Vegas, during which she got engaged. That relationship, however, soon fell apart and the couple split less than two months after the big win.

A few months later, Cohen sued Assa-Eliahu alleging the couple regularly bought lottery tickets and had a general agreement to always share any winnings.

Assa-Eliahu parents also sued, claiming it was their debit card that paid for the ticket. She counter-sued everyone, asking that all the money she had paid them be returned. She also sued Cohen for a real estate deposit she’d lost because her bank account was frozen until the end of the lawsuit.

The judge found there was no agreement between Assa-Eliahu and Cohen to share the winnings. Further, despite his initial assertions, Cohen had not paid for the ticket, which made the judge question his credibility. He also didn’t sign the back of the lottery ticket at the convenience store, and didn’t accompany Assa-Eliahu when she picked up the money. Not surprisingly, Cohen was not in the OLG photograph. All of this suggested he did not think of himself as a co-winner. Moreover, after the win, Assa-Eliahu asked him to sign a prenuptial agreement that stated they would not share the money. The judge ruled Cohen was only entitled to keep the $30,000 to pay his debt, because it was given to him as a gift. However, Cohen was ordered to compensate Assa-Eliahu for her lost deposit.

In relation to the parents’ claim, the judge ruled it didn’t matter that the ticket was bought with their debit card, because Assa-Eliahu lived with them and they had occasionally let her use the card at her discretion. The parents did not ask her to buy the ticket and the ticket price was too small for the parents to say it was theft.

Finally, the judge ruled Assa-Eliahu was not entitled to get the $350,000 back from her parents, because she gave it to them as a gift and not as a loan. This was consistent with her paying for their trip to Israel.

One question remains: how did the fortune-teller know she would win? Never mind, they tell everyone the same thing.

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