Michigan Man Who Won $80 Million Lottery Jackpot During Divorce Ordered to Pay Half to Ex-Wife
An arbitrator ruled Rich's winnings were "marital property" and demanded $15 million must be shared with his ex-wife Mary Beth
A Michigan man who beat the odds to win the Mega Million lottery has been forced to split the earnings with his ex-wife amid their divorce.
Richard “Dick” Zelasko was thrilled to learn that he won the $80 million jackpot back in 2013 — that is until an arbitrator told him that half of his winnings would be going to his soon-to-be ex-wife Mary Beth Zelasko, whom he was involved in a divorce settlement with, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Though Dick and Mary Beth, who married in 2004 and share three children, were separated for two years at the time he won the Mega Million, a Michigan appeals court ruled that the Pontiac native must pay his ex-wife half the winnings, as their divorce was not yet final.
According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, Dick won the $80 million jackpot in July 2013 but took home $38,873,628 after taxes and deductions.
The arbitrator John Mills — who was granted the ability to make some decisions in the case by the couple — determined that Dick’s lottery winnings were “part of the marital estate” and likely not his first purchased ticket.
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Because of this, Mills demanded that $15 million be awarded to Mary Beth, according to court documents. Their divorce was finalized in 2018, the Free Press reports.
Dick’s attorney Scott G. Bassett, however, argued in court that “Rich was lucky, but it was his luck, not Mary’s, that produced the lottery proceeds,” per the court filing.
Despite their argument, an appeals court did not seem to buy into it and reviewed the decision last week, coming to the determination that the case had no errors.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Bassett said he had filed an appeal brief to the Court of Appeals and a reconsideration motion after the decision was made on behalf of Dick. Bassett also noted that if the reconsideration was denied, they intend on appealing to the Michigan Supreme Court.
“An equal split of an asset acquired so long after separation, and in this case after the conclusion of the divorce arbitration hearing, is extremely unusual,” Bassett tells PEOPLE. “We believe the arbitrator violated controlling Michigan law when he awarded Mrs. Zelasko half of the $30 million net lottery proceeds.”
Mary Beth’s attorney Anne Argiroff did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.