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Jury awards jailed illegal alien $750,000 lottery ticket

Georgia LotteryGeorgia Lottery: Jury awards jailed illegal alien $750,000 lottery ticket

After deliberating only 35 minutes Thursday, a Houston County jury awarded ownership of a $750,000 lottery ticket to an illegal alien who claimed he was taken advantage of by the man he had worked for as a day laborer.

Jose Antonio "Tony" Cua-Toc, 27, a native of Guatemala who entered the country illegally in 2000, had filed a lawsuit against Erick Cervantes, a Fort Valley business owner who claimed the winning Jingle Jumbo Bucks lottery ticket from Georgia lottery officials.

(See Illegal alien faces deportation after threatening his boss over lottery prize, Lottery Post, Aug. 24, 2011.)

Cua-Toc's winnings after taxes total $517,500, according to his attorneys. A jury also awarded him $207,000 in attorney's fees, as well as $25,000 in punitive damages.

Cua-Toc purchased the winning ticket Nov. 17, 2010, from the OM Food Mart at 700 Feagin Mill Road in Warner Robins. But because Cua-Toc was undocumented, Erick Cervantes claimed the winnings on Cua-Toc's behalf but then kept the money. Cervantes had claimed he was the rightful owner of the ticket, having given Cua-Toc $20 to purchase the ticket for him.

Juror Shannon Milanek, a 41-year-old nurse from Warner Robins, said the jury's verdict came down to surveillance video from the store where the ticket was purchased. The video shows a smiling Cua-Toc raising his hands in the air after the winning ticket is validated by the store owner.

During closing arguments, Charles R. Adams III, of Fort Valley, one of Cua-Toc's attorneys, had played the video again for jurors. The video also shows Cua-Toc hugging and kissing his girlfriend. He also sends photos of the winning ticket to his friends from his cell phone.

Adams asked jurors while the video played, "Is this the reaction of somebody who bought a ticket for someone else and is going to have to give it to his boss tomorrow?"

The jury did not have any law to go on regarding whether the ticket belonged to the person who purchased it or the person who provided the money to purchase it, Milanek said. Ultimately, jurors decided that the ticket was Cua-Toc's because he made the purchase, Milanek said.

Kelly Burke, one of the Warner Robins attorneys representing Cervantes, had argued that the civil case heard in Houston County Superior Court was about "Mr. Cua-Toc's desperate grab to get a hold of some money."

Adams expressed gratitude for the jury's verdict.

"Only in America can this sort of justice be done," Adams said.

Punitive damages

After the verdict, the court recessed for lunch and then returned for the same jury to hear arguments during a separate hearing on the amount to award in punitive damages.

Jeff Lasseter, the other attorney representing Cervantes, sought "compassion" from jurors — noting testimony during the trial that Cervantes was a generous man and had three children. Lasseter pleaded with jurors not to pile on punitive damages — noting the verdict was punishment enough and asking jurors to award only $1 in damages.

But Adams asked jurors to send "a definite, sharp message and a lasting reminder not only to Erick Cervantes but to all the Erick Cervanteses everywhere."

He argued Erick Cervantes and then-wife Sonia Cervantes were living the American dream and spending the lottery ticket winnings while Cua-Toc sat in jail on a falsified terroristic charge. Cua-Toc, who testified during the four-day trial through court interpreter Nancy A. King, denied threatening the Cervantes family.

Adams, who did not ask the jury for a specific amount to be awarded, did detail about $223,000 in lottery revenues that had been spent by Erick and Sonia Cervantes — including a $41,489 house payment, $47,000 in legal fees to attorneys, a $24,923 van payment, a $43,000 payment to the IRS, a $10,000 gift to the parents of Sonia Cervantes, a $10,000 loan to a friend and other gift amounts to relatives and friends.

Adams told jurors about $300,000 remains of the lottery funds that were frozen by the court Dec. 31, 2010, after the filing of the lawsuit by Cua-Toc against Erick and Sonia Cervantes. Sonia Cervantes was dismissed from the lawsuit during the trial by mutual agreement of attorneys, Burke said.

The aftermath

After the court proceedings, Burke expressed disappointment with the verdict but respect for the jury and the jury system.

He said grounds for appeal are being explored. But Burke also said he has already reached out to Adams about a settlement amount.

Adams said it would be inappropriate to talk about a settlement. Another court hearing is expected to be scheduled on the amount of lottery funds that should be awarded based on Cua-Toc's attorneys' estimate of $517,500 after federal taxes compared with the estimate of $460,000 that also includes the deduction of state taxes as estimated by attorneys for Cervantes.

In instructions to jurors for deliberations, Judge George F. Nunn stated that Georgia law does not prohibit the sale of a lottery ticket to a foreign national over the age of 18. Testimony during the trial indicated that Cua-Toc believed he did not have the proper documentation to receive the ticket proceeds on his own.

Cua-Toc, who had been living in Fort Valley after an Atlanta immigration attorney won him the right in September to stay in the country for the civil case, is currently serving 44 days in the Houston County jail on a Jan. 31 drunken driving conviction.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold was placed against Cua-Toc Jan. 31. Generally, ICE holds are not activated until after adjudication of a local criminal case, which includes sentencing, according to ICE spokesman Vincent Picard.

Cua-Toc was initially jailed Nov. 27, 2010, in Houston County on a terroristic threats charge for allegedly threatening Cervantes and his family. District Attorney George Hartwig previously has stated he does not expect to proceed with the case if Cua-Toc returns to Guatemala. But if Cua-Toc were to remain in the country, Hartwig said, "It's certainly still on the table. The charges are still pending."

Hartwig could not be reached immediately late Thursday afternoon for additional comment in light of the jury's verdict.

Macon Telegraph

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37 comments. Last comment 3 years ago by sully16.
Page 1 of 3
BuyLow's avatar - palm tree.jpg
Florida
United States
Member #61435
May 22, 2008
776 Posts
Offline
Posted: March 14, 2012, 8:33 am - IP Logged

WTG to the lucky winner!!

    dallascowboyfan's avatar - tiana the-princess-and-the-frog.jpg
    Oklahoma
    United States
    Member #82391
    November 12, 2009
    5422 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: March 14, 2012, 8:38 am - IP Logged

    Shame on Cervantes.....No No Glad to see Jose Antonio get his winnings.....Thumbs Up


      United States
      Member #111446
      May 25, 2011
      6323 Posts
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      Posted: March 14, 2012, 8:48 am - IP Logged

      Justice for Cua-Toc! Cervantes needs to be paying back for the remainder of his life for this despicable act. If he tries appealing, he is an idiot!   Crazy

        Avatar
        Orlando, FL
        United States
        Member #115789
        August 28, 2011
        259 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: March 14, 2012, 8:57 am - IP Logged

        I REMEMBER this story!!!!

        Way to go for the rightful winner

        See how greed can destroy people's lives. Cervantes and his wife would have remained married if they hadn't stolen the ticketNo No.

        Lesson to all, buy your own tickets! Sign 'em and place them in a reasonably safe place.

          Cletu$2's avatar - Lottery-050.jpg
          S.E.Iowa
          United States
          Member #120509
          December 21, 2011
          534 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: March 14, 2012, 9:05 am - IP Logged

          Give him his money and then kick him out of the country.He can then re-enter legally if he so desires.

          When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it. ~Clarence Darrow

          There ought to be one day - just one - when there is open season on senators. ~Will Rogers

            dpoly1's avatar - driver
            PA
            United States
            Member #66141
            October 16, 2008
            1452 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: March 14, 2012, 9:48 am - IP Logged

            Give him the money and send him back to Guatemala!

            dpoly1 - Playing the lottery to save the jobs of those that build, transport, sell & maintain luxury items! -

             

            Eschew Poverty ........... Vote Conservative!

              sully16's avatar - sharan
              Listens to the wind
              Michigan
              United States
              Member #81740
              October 28, 2009
              20065 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: March 14, 2012, 12:06 pm - IP Logged

              Is here illegally, and sitting in jail for drunk driving . Deport him.

              Investigate Cervantes to see how many illegals work from him, deport them all

              slap big fine on Cervantes for each occurrence.

              Use part of the lottery money to pay the tax payers back for police, courts, jails.

              There's only one US Flag

                rdgrnr's avatar - walt
                Way back up in them dadgum hills, son!
                United States
                Member #73904
                April 28, 2009
                14903 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: March 14, 2012, 12:32 pm - IP Logged

                This is the kind of stuff that happens and will continue to happen as long as people are allowed to profit by breaking our laws.

                There should be no rewards or benefit of any kind for people who are here illegally.

                Criminal activity is only encouraged when you reward it.

                I believe any ticket buyer from anywhere in the world should be eligible to win prizes as long as they're here legally. 


                                                             
                                     
                                                         

                 

                 

                 

                 

                                                                                                                   

                "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"

                                                                                                            --Edmund Burke

                 

                 

                  RedStang's avatar - threefin zpsd48411ab.jpg
                  Dutchess NY
                  United States
                  Member #121966
                  January 21, 2012
                  2688 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: March 14, 2012, 1:17 pm - IP Logged

                  This is the kind of stuff that happens and will continue to happen as long as people are allowed to profit by breaking our laws.

                  There should be no rewards or benefit of any kind for people who are here illegally.

                  Criminal activity is only encouraged when you reward it.

                  I believe any ticket buyer from anywhere in the world should be eligible to win prizes as long as they're here legally. 

                  I don't get it. They put up a billion dollar fence to stop illegals, but they can play the lotto, win and pay taxes. Most of my spanish co-workers can't even sit on a jury. I agree, the win should be voided and the loophole fixed.

                    NightStalker's avatar - IMG00073 20100720-1609_2.jpg
                    Nothing Good Happens After Midnight
                    East of Columbus, OH
                    United States
                    Member #120848
                    December 28, 2011
                    417 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: March 14, 2012, 5:48 pm - IP Logged

                    This is the kind of stuff that happens and will continue to happen as long as people are allowed to profit by breaking our laws.

                    There should be no rewards or benefit of any kind for people who are here illegally.

                    Criminal activity is only encouraged when you reward it.

                    I believe any ticket buyer from anywhere in the world should be eligible to win prizes as long as they're here legally. 

                    I Agree!  Wise words from the Oracle.

                    Life's Too Short To Be Unhappy Cool

                      Avatar

                      United States
                      Member #122696
                      February 6, 2012
                      202 Posts
                      Offline
                      Posted: March 14, 2012, 6:34 pm - IP Logged

                      You people are such hypocrites. You hate illegal aliens until they are building your houses for cheap, doing your landscaping and housework for cheap etc etc. 

                      He paid his money for the ticket and he won fair and square, deal with it, and now he has probably paid more taxes than you all have in your lives making him a better citizen than most of you for the country. BTW all you need is to invest $500,000 in this country and you get residency, so he is good. 

                      Also, we can go to Canada or Europe and play the lottery when we are there and win and we get to keep the money too even if you are just visiting. Changing laws can work both ways buddy.

                        Halle99's avatar - Lottery-043.jpg
                        United States
                        United States
                        Member #68252
                        December 16, 2008
                        168 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: March 14, 2012, 7:05 pm - IP Logged

                        You people are such hypocrites. You hate illegal aliens until they are building your houses for cheap, doing your landscaping and housework for cheap etc etc. 

                        He paid his money for the ticket and he won fair and square, deal with it, and now he has probably paid more taxes than you all have in your lives making him a better citizen than most of you for the country. BTW all you need is to invest $500,000 in this country and you get residency, so he is good. 

                        Also, we can go to Canada or Europe and play the lottery when we are there and win and we get to keep the money too even if you are just visiting. Changing laws can work both ways buddy.

                        I Agree!.....He won it, he deserves it.

                        "Wait eagerly for the Lord, and keep to the way; God wil raise you to possess the land; you will gloat when the wicked are cut off".

                                                                                                      Psalms 37:34

                          Bigheadnick's avatar - badluck
                          Taunton, Ma
                          United States
                          Member #123010
                          February 11, 2012
                          136 Posts
                          Offline
                          Posted: March 14, 2012, 9:30 pm - IP Logged

                           You ask me, Neither of them should get the money. HE IS AN ILLEGAL ALIEN, HOW IN HELL IS HE ALLOWED TO WIN THE LOTTERY ?!!!! And his boss is a <snip> too. #1 for hiring an illegal in the first place and #2 for pulling that stunt he pulled.

                          What should be done:

                          1-kick his illegal arse back to his country

                          2-strip his boss of any licenses he carries

                          3-donate the money to a worthwile charity.

                          This post has been automatically changed by the Lottery Post computer system to remove inappropriate content and/or spam.

                          Scratchies for the win!

                          We are in a two-party dictatorship. You want change ? Vote third partyThumbs Up

                            haymaker's avatar - Lottery-012.jpg
                            egg harbor twp.south jersey shore
                            United States
                            Member #112972
                            June 29, 2011
                            3167 Posts
                            Offline
                            Posted: March 14, 2012, 9:57 pm - IP Logged

                             You ask me, Neither of them should get the money. HE IS AN ILLEGAL ALIEN, HOW IN HELL IS HE ALLOWED TO WIN THE LOTTERY ?!!!! And his boss is a <snip> too. #1 for hiring an illegal in the first place and #2 for pulling that stunt he pulled.

                            What should be done:

                            1-kick his illegal arse back to his country

                            2-strip his boss of any licenses he carries

                            3-donate the money to a worthwile charity.

                            This post has been automatically changed by the Lottery Post computer system to remove inappropriate content and/or spam.

                            Bigheadnick, Good answers all.

                            Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds    -- Charles Mackay  LL.D.