Woman plans to file lawsuit against the lottery
By the time lottery officials told Patricia Manzitto that her winning ticket was a fake, she already had spent nearly half the $25,000 she thought she'd won.
But when Manzitto went to collect her winnings four days later, officials at the New York Lottery's Garden City center told her that it looked as if her ticket had been forged by taping two halves of different tickets together. Lottery officials refused to pay up.
Manzitto, 64, of East Moriches, said the ticket had been cut in half when it came out of the machine. But the two sides looked like they fit together, so she taped them together.
On Oct. 5, Manzitto said she went to a Pathmark in Shirley, L.I., where she put $6 in a lottery ticket-dispensing machine and received three Blue Moon Bucks tickets.
The bottom half of one ticket was spit out unattached to the top half, said Manzitto, a paraprofessional at William Floyd HS.
Manzitto said she then took the tickets home to her husband, Salvatore, who scratched off the damaged ticket and saw it had two matching numbers — 13 — on either end, for a $25,000 prize.
"He said, 'Oh, my God! We won!' " Manzitto recalled. "Both of us are screaming and jumping up and down."
Manzitto was so excited she spent some of the prize money before she even tried to collect. She dropped $700 on more lottery tickets, put $3,000 down on a new Lexus and promised her grandkids $1,000 apiece.
But when Manzitto and her son went to the Lottery's Garden City office on Oct. 9 to collect, a supervisor who checked the taped-together ticket told her it was invalid.
"My heart just dropped," Manzitto said. Manzitto said she told the supervisor she was going to Pathmark to ask for tape from a surveillance camera above the machine, which she said would back up her story.
"He said, 'You really shouldn't go to Pathmark.' He said, 'I'm going to give it to an investigator, and they'll go to Pathmark,' " Manzitto recalled.
Manzitto's lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold, said an investigator never checked with Pathmark, and that as a result any footage of Manzitto's purchase may since have been taped over. Manzitto said the lottery officials "said my story sounded strange," implying that she might be trying to defraud them.
Patricia Manzitto of Long Island
claims that these two halves of
lottery tickets from one vending
machine add up to $25,000 and
plans to seek her winnings in a
"That's what's really got me so crazy," she said.
Now she says she wants her $25,000 — and her good reputation — back. At a news conference yesterday in State Supreme Court in Mineola, she said she plans to file a lawsuit against the New York Lottery within the week.
"I've spent my life trying to be an honest, upstanding, good person," she said. "I started to cry," she said about being denied the payout. "I'm so frustrated."
But lottery officials weren't backing down yesterday.
John Charlson, director of communications for the New York Lottery, said many people try to cash in on taped-together tickets — enough that they have a form letter at the ready to explain to those people why they won't get their cash. He said the lottery doesn't pursue people they think have fraudulent tickets — but it doesn't pay up, either.
Charlson said the torn ticket was investigated and that the benday lines on the top half of the ticket are red and the bottom half lines are blue, which indicates that the ticket may have been manipulated.
Manzitto's lawyer, Arnold, doesn't dispute that the colored lines don't match, but argued that that is how the ticket was sold.
"When they tore that ticket, they tore up her dreams," said Arnold.
The New York Lottery was unmoved.
"This allegation is as silly as a bank customer saying she withdrew a hundred dollar bill from an ATM machine and Ben Franklin was on one half of the bill and George Washington was on the other half," said Charlson.
"It's the season for tricks and treats, and this one smells like a cheap trick," Charlson said. "At most, if the player thinks she's entitled to an award, it would be the two bucks she claims she spent on the bogus ticket."
The lottery reviews and investigates every claim, and cases, like the one presented by Manzitto, are so common that there is a form letter which advises manipulated tickets are not winners. In cases like Manzitto's the customer receives a letter that plainly states "ticket halves don't match."