Lottery Winner Ordered To Share Winnings

March 15, 2012 by staff 

Lottery Winner Ordered To Share Winnings, A jury ordered Americo Lopes to share a Mega Millions jackpot with five co-workers: from left, Candido Silva Sr., Jose Sousa, Daniel Esteves, Carlos Fernandes, and Candido Silva Jr. There were some dark twists in the plot line, inevitable, perhaps, when friends fight over $38.5 million in lottery winnings.
Americo Lopes initially told no one that he had won a jackpot of $38.5 million.

The friends, construction workers from New Jersey, said they had pooled their money for lottery tickets for years. Five of them relied on a member of their little group, Americo Lopes, to buy the tickets. In November 2009, he collected their money and bought a Mega Millions ticket that won, but he told no one except lottery officials. He cashed in the ticket as if it were his alone.

The lottery deducted taxes and sent Mr. Lopes a check for $17,433,966. He quit his job, saying he needed foot surgery.

“We believed him,” said one of the others, Candido Silva Jr. — until several months later, when Mr. Lopes told another man in the group that he had won the lottery a week after he had stopped working. As word of his luck spread, yet another man checked a Web site, found Mr. Lopes’s name and discovered when he had hit it big.

On Wednesday, a jury in Union County ordered Mr. Lopes to share the winnings with the five former co-workers.

Mr. Lopes (pronounced LOHPS) did not sound happy; The Star-Ledger of Newark quoted him as saying, in Portuguese, “They robbed me.”

The case was based largely on circumstantial and, at times, emotional evidence. If this trial suggested some similarity to “It Could Happen to You,” a movie loosely based on a real-life lottery winner’s generous tip to a waitress, the proceedings proved otherwise: There was testimony of greed, lies and betrayal.

“We trusted him,” Jose Sousa, 46, said on Wednesday. “He cheated us.” Of the jury’s decision, he said: “We proved that we’re not lying. This is the most important thing.”

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