A Manhattan judge has frozen most of the Mega Millions lottery winnings of a Mount Sinai Hospital employee and has told three co-workers who pooled money to buy tickets with him they may proceed with their lawsuit to get a share of the prize.
The lawsuit against John Piccolo says he kept $175,000 in lottery winnings that he should have shared with the three co-workers because he used their money to enter the Nov. 2 drawing.
The co-workers' court papers say each of the four should have received $43,750 of the second prize winnings before taxes. One of the co-workers says Piccolo offered her the souvenir umbrella that lottery officials gave him when he claimed the prize.
Piccolo, 36, of Elmhurst, Queens, says in court papers the group did not pool money for that drawing so he bought his own ticket at a supermarket near his home. He said he always bought the office pool tickets at a deli near the Manhattan hospital.
After deducting for taxes, lottery officials gave Piccolo a check for $109,000, some of which he used to buy a new car and most of which he banked, his lawyer Thomas Weiss said Wednesday.
State Supreme Court Justice Marylin Diamond in a decision last week froze $81,750 that Piccolo put in a bank account in St. Cloud, Minn., and ruled that his three co-workers could go ahead with their suit against him.
Joey Jackson, lawyer for Piccolo's three co-workers, said Wednesday that the defendant had "dissipated $28,000 of the assets, pretty much his share," and the judge froze the bank account to keep him from spending any more.
"Mr. Piccolo did an unjust thing," Jackson said. "He got amnesia when he got the money."
The three co-workers _ Veronica Edmondson, 30, of the Bronx, Denise Beaulieu, 47, of the Bronx, and Joan Pitcan, 46, of Yonkers _ work as administrative staff with Piccolo in Mount Sinai's department of hematology and oncology.
Edmondson says in an affidavit that starting in June 2004 she, Piccolo and others contributed $2 each twice a week toward a pool for playing the Mega Millions lottery on Tuesdays and Fridays.
The group's first win netted $3 on Oct. 29, Edmondson's papers say. She says the group told Piccolo to spend that money on more lottery tickets, which he did "in accordance with our mutual understanding and in a manner otherwise consistent with his normal, customary and usual practice."
Shortly after 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 3, Edmondson's court papers say, Piccolo called to tell her, "I just won the Mega Million second prize for $175,000."
Edmondson said she was hardly able to contain her excitement and exclaimed, "`We won, John!' to which Mr. Piccolo responded, `No, I won. I spoke to my wife about the winning ticket, but I mentioned to her that I was in a pool at work and she said that since you guys didn't give me money for the tickets yet you are not entitled to the money."'
Piccolo's three co-workers sued him about two weeks later.
Weiss said Wednesday that Piccolo and the three co-workers aren't getting along and there has been "a tremendous amount of tension in his workplace." He said Piccolo asked his supervisor for a transfer but was denied.
Mega Millions tickets cost $1 per play. Players pick six numbers from two pools: five numbers from 1 to 52 and one number from 1 to 52.