Finders keepers, losers weepers? Not in Isaac Mendez's book.
Seven years ago, the former Jersey City resident lost a lawsuit in which he claimed to be the original purchaser of a $4 million New Jersey lottery ticket. But that court defeat hasn't stopped Mendez from pursuing the millions he claims is rightfully his.
On Sept. 16, 2002, a New Jersey Pick 6 lottery ticket was sold from the Sunshine Grocery store in Hoboken.
Mendez, who lived in Jersey City at the time, claimed he bought the ticket, but then lost it aboard a bus on Washington Street.
By the time he contacted the state Lottery Commission, the ticket had already been claimed by Maribel and Reynaldo Torres, a brother and sister from Union City.
Mendez filed a lawsuit in 2003 in Hudson County Superior Court against the Lottery Commission and the Union City siblings.
Satisfied that the Torreses purchased the ticket, a jury decided unanimously that the lump sum payout — $1.4 million after taxes — was rightfully theirs.
"It devastated me that someone could actually do that to me," Mendez, who survives on disability payments, said in a recent interview. "They stole a lot of money from me, they stole alot of years from my life."
In 2004, Mendez, a once aspiring doctor who now lives in Fairview, filed an unsuccessful court appeal.
Then in November last year, he filed a tort claim for $300 million against 27 defendants, including the Attorney General's Office, the state Lottery Commission, the state Department of Treasury, the state Department of Archives and Records Management and the Torres siblings, alleging obstruction of justice, fraud, negligence and perjury.
The complaint was filed in Mercer County Superior Court where Judge Paul Innes dismissed the cases against all but five of the defendants — the four state agencies and a former attorney for Mendez — on grounds that Mendez did not serve them personally. Mendez plans to file a motion to reinstate the lawsuit against the other 22 defendants.
Deputy Attorney General Marc Krefetz, who is representing the four state agencies, did not return phone calls to comment.
At her Union City home on Thursday, Maribel Torres said she was aware Mendez had filed a new lawsuit and that she and her brother Reynaldo were named in it, but she hadn't taken any action on the recommendation of her lawyer, Louis Balk.
"Obviously if anything is done, I'll be there for them," Balk said, adding that he too is a defendant in the complaint.
Mendez also filed an appeal in Mercer County's Appellate Division because he says state officials have "evaded the court rules" requiring them to file an answer to his November 2009 complaint within 35 days.
"If for some reason I'm stonewalled here in state court, I would proceed further because I'm not turning back at this point," Mendez said. "I'm confident that if I persevere that justice will prevail."
If he wins, Mendez said he'll relocate overseas. "I would love to move to Denmark because they say it's the happiest place in the world."
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