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Mega Millions winner forced to split jackpot with co-workers

Mega MillionsMega Millions: Mega Millions winner forced to split jackpot with co-workers
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ELIZABETH, N.J. — For one New Jersey lottery winner looking to keep a Mega Millions jackpot all to himself, luck ran out today.

Americo Lopes, who took home a $24 million jackpot three years ago, must surrender $20 million of that bounty to five former coworkers after a civil jury found he cheated the men out of their rightful share of the winnings.

On Nov. 10, 2009, two winning Mega Millions tickets were claimed from a $77 million jackpot, one of which Lopes had, leaving him with $38.5 million. He chose a lump sum and received $24 million after taxes.

(See NJ man sued over $38.5M lottery ticket, Lottery Post, Mar. 14, 2012.)

The verdict in Superior Court in Elizabeth sparked a joyous celebration by the successful plaintiffs, who jumped to their feet and embraced one another, smiles on their faces. Each was awarded $4 million, or about $2 million after taxes and attorneys' fees.

"I feel like I could cheer," said one of the men, Candido Silva Sr. "I believe justice prevailed today."

There was little to celebrate for Lopes, 52, who quickly shuffled past his one-time friends — all construction workers originally from Portugal — and out of the courtroom.

Nearing the elevator, he spoke quietly in Portuguese.

"They robbed me," he said.

His wife, Margarida, shared in the sentiment.

"Justice was not served today," she said.

The case, decided unanimously by an eight-person jury, marked the latest cautionary tale involving lottery pools, pacts often based on trust and a handshake.

The men worked together at Berto Construction Inc. in Elizabeth, where they started playing the lottery together in 2007. Lopes organized the pools two or three times a month, typically when jackpots were large, and collected $2 from each man to buy the tickets. When Lopes hit the Mega Millions winner in November 2009, the men sued, claiming he won with a pool ticket and then cut them out of the winnings.

Lopes, for his part, insisted the winning ticket was his own, paid for with his own money. As proof, he pointed to the winning numbers, which he said he used only for personal picks and never used when playing with the pool.

As they awaited the verdict today, the five friends sat together, their attorneys pacing the sun-bathed courtroom on the 14th floor.

The four-day trial ended when the jury knocked to deliver its verdict after 2 1/2 hours of deliberations. At $20 million, the jury award is believed to be one of the largest in Union County history.

Lopes' attorney, Michael Mezzacca, said he was disappointed by the ruling.

"There are innocent people sent to jail for crimes they didn't commit by the same standard of reasonable doubt this jury used," Mezzacca said. "The fact is that Mr. Lopes won the lottery by himself with his own money and numbers that he picked."

The case was based mostly on testimony from the five plaintiffs and a collection of lottery tickets gathered from Lopes' home.

Eric Kahn and Rubin Sinins, lawyers for the plaintiffs, used the same collection of tickets to show that out of 1,090 times Lopes played, he spent only $12 on 12 numbers the day of the jackpot, an indication he was playing for the pool, which always bought 12 numbers.

Lopes' behavior after the win became a critical component of the case. He told his boss he wouldn't be returning to work because he needed foot surgery, which he never received, and denied winning the jackpot. He also filed for unemployment benefits after claiming the prize.

Also important was testimony from a sixth construction worker, uninvolved in the lawsuit, who said the men gave Lopes money to play the day of the winning drawing.

"Today shows that when you tell the truth, good things happen," Kahn said. "There were a lot of untruths told in this case, but these guys prevailed."

Long before the lawsuit, the six men, who where known at work as the B6 crew, would spend early morning car rides to construction sites daydreaming about what they would do if they won the lottery.

Today, those possibilities came rushing back.

Candido Silva Jr. said he's putting his two children through college. Carlos Fernandes will buy his newborn granddaughter "a present she will remember," and Candido Silva Sr. said he's paying off his house in Hillside and then planning a trip to Portugal for the five men to celebrate.

Three of the men said they will return to work at Berto.

"The money isn't going to be so, so much once we find out what's available," Candido Silva Jr. said. "It's more a victory for us, for what he did to us."

The men said they will continue to play the lottery as a group, but from now on, all tickets will be photocopied.

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

Star-Ledger, Lottery Post Staff

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78 comments. Last comment 3 years ago by RedStang.
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United States
Member #122329
January 29, 2012
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Posted: March 15, 2012, 9:04 am - IP Logged

There's some bad math in this article or I'm just not getting it.   If the guy took the cash option which was $24,000,000 after taxes and now has to split it six ways that would be $4,000,000 per person.  While I understand there may be attorney fees why would they have to pay taxes on the $4,000,000 individual portions as the taxes were already paid on the $24,000,000.    This must be wrong so I'll assume each guy is probably getting about $3,900,000 as it's not going to be over $500,000 for the five to have received reprsentation.   Either way good for them and just another cautionary tale of why you don't get involved in a lotto pool.

    dallascowboyfan's avatar - tiana the-princess-and-the-frog.jpg
    Oklahoma
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    Member #82391
    November 12, 2009
    5484 Posts
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    Posted: March 15, 2012, 9:05 am - IP Logged

    WOW!!!!! OK so the numbers that Lopes played were self picked not quick picks correct? So I guess I am wondering were the other tickets purchased by the group QP or picked #?

      Avatar
      Orlando, FL
      United States
      Member #115789
      August 28, 2011
      259 Posts
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      Posted: March 15, 2012, 9:07 am - IP Logged

      Can ANYONE here in LP do a search and give us a STATISTIC of how many lottery pools have gone WRONG?Sad Cheers

      I'm curious to know how many lottery pools have won over the years and how many resulted in some sort of lawsuit.Thumbs Down

        luckyshoes's avatar - yocco
        Pennsylvania
        United States
        Member #79502
        September 2, 2009
        5378 Posts
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        Posted: March 15, 2012, 9:08 am - IP Logged

        Didnt we just see this episode? The woman who won was still getting foodstamps. Now this man wins and files for unemployment.....

        Greed  Greed Greed

        Why would you cut out people who put money in the pool with you? And then say justice wasnt served?

        Kudos to the 5 men

        444   6464

          CDanaT's avatar - tiger avatar_04_hd_pictures_169016.jpg
          TX
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          Member #121198
          January 4, 2012
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          Posted: March 15, 2012, 9:09 am - IP Logged

          Looks like this came down to "personal integrity"....The winning ticket COULD have been his personal choice...but that little part about,      "He told his boss he wouldn't be returning to work because he needed foot surgery, which he never received, and denied winning the jackpot. He also filed for unemployment benefits after claiming the prize." kind of sets the stage in my  humble opinion. A smart sneaky man would have kept his mouth shut, had a close friend/relative make the claim and moved to Costa Rica....OH WELL, he still has his share left...maybe  ROFL
           

          Stay Positive, Believe and good things will come your way

            Avatar
            Orlando, FL
            United States
            Member #115789
            August 28, 2011
            259 Posts
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            Posted: March 15, 2012, 9:13 am - IP Logged

            Looks like this came down to "personal integrity"....The winning ticket COULD have been his personal choice...but that little part about,      "He told his boss he wouldn't be returning to work because he needed foot surgery, which he never received, and denied winning the jackpot. He also filed for unemployment benefits after claiming the prize." kind of sets the stage in my  humble opinion. A smart sneaky man would have kept his mouth shut, had a close friend/relative make the claim and moved to Costa Rica....OH WELL, he still has his share left...maybe  ROFL
             

            Whether it was his ticket or not, the lesson of today is , don't join Lottery Pools, not in today's day and ageEvil LookingNo NoNo NodArgueArgueCryingDupe Alert

              time*treat's avatar - radar

              United States
              Member #13130
              March 30, 2005
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              Posted: March 15, 2012, 9:19 am - IP Logged

              [O]ut of 1,090 times Lopes played, he spent only $12 on 12 numbers the day of the jackpot, an indication he was playing for the pool, which always bought 12 numbers.

              Well, that's easy enough to figure out.


              [T]he jury knocked to deliver its verdict after 2 1/2 hours of deliberations.

              Unless they had to look through all 1,090 tickets, that's 2 1/4 hours longer than this needed to take. Crazy

              In neo-conned Amerika, bank robs you.
              Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be the name of a convenience store, not a govnoment agency.

                dallascowboyfan's avatar - tiana the-princess-and-the-frog.jpg
                Oklahoma
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                November 12, 2009
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                Posted: March 15, 2012, 9:34 am - IP Logged

                "Looks like this came down to "personal integrity"....The winning ticket COULD have been his personal choice...but that little part about,      "He told his boss he wouldn't be returning to work because he needed foot surgery, which he never received, and denied winning the jackpot."

                I Agree!

                  mightwin's avatar - questns

                  United States
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                  January 5, 2011
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                  Posted: March 15, 2012, 9:38 am - IP Logged

                  Keep it simple, buy your own tickets!

                    dpoly1's avatar - driver
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                    Posted: March 15, 2012, 10:20 am - IP Logged

                    Keep it simple, buy your own tickets!

                    I Agree!

                    I bought my own Mega Millions ticket last nite. $3 on quick picks ..................... Grey Violet 2011 Bentley Continental Supersorts - Pittsburgh PA - SCBCU7ZA8BC066953 (24) Grey Violet is goooooooooooood!

                    I just have to share it with my non-estranged wife!  Thud

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

                     

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

                      HoLeeKau's avatar - YheaShea
                      Idaho
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                      Posted: March 15, 2012, 10:32 am - IP Logged

                      Sounds to me like those were his personal numbers, but he stole pool money to play them.  So they belong to the pool.

                        Littleoldlady's avatar - basket
                        Clarksville
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                        Member #487
                        July 15, 2002
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                        Posted: March 15, 2012, 10:38 am - IP Logged

                        He certainly did not look very happy.  they ran the story on the news.  He shouldn't have tried to cheat his friends.

                        If you know your number is going to hit, have patience and then KILL IT!

                        You never know when you will get another hit.

                          ashabug725's avatar - Yavill
                          Indiana
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                          February 9, 2012
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                          Posted: March 15, 2012, 10:46 am - IP Logged

                          I Agree!

                          I bought my own Mega Millions ticket last nite. $3 on quick picks ..................... Grey Violet 2011 Bentley Continental Supersorts - Pittsburgh PA - SCBCU7ZA8BC066953 (24) Grey Violet is goooooooooooood!

                          I just have to share it with my non-estranged wife!  Thud

                          That gray violet is an absolutely beautiful color!! Can't see really clear on my phone but assuming its a Bentley? I'll proally grab one after my win on Friday ;-) I as well got $3 in quick picks (and then my personal numbers)

                            Cletu$2's avatar - Lottery-050.jpg
                            S.E.Iowa
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                            Posted: March 15, 2012, 11:13 am - IP Logged

                            Keep it simple, buy your own tickets!

                            I Agree!I Agree!

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

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