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Lost and found? $1.4M lottery ticket winds up in court

New Jersey LotteryNew Jersey Lottery: Lost and found? $1.4M lottery ticket winds up in court

On Sept. 16, 2002, a New Jersey Pick 6 lottery ticket was sold from the Sunshine Grocery store in Hoboken. The numbers, randomly generated as a "quick pick," proved to be the very lucky indeed. But a court will have to decide for whom.

Several days after the ticket was sold, a brother and sister from Union City presented the lone winning ticket in the $4 million drawing to the New Jersey Lottery Commission in Trenton. Ecstatic at their good fortune but uncertain of their English (they are from Puerto Rico), Marabelle and Ronaldo Torres said they waited several days until they could find someone they trusted to help them before trying to redeem the ticket.

Then Isaac Mendez showed up.

Mendez, a 35-year-old Rutgers University student who lives in Jersey City, said it was in fact his ticket that the Torres' presented. He said he's the one who bought the ticket from the Sunshine Grocery that day, but then lost it while he rode the bus up Washington Street.

Weeks later, when Mendez went to the Lottery Commission offices in Trenton to argue his case, he said he recognized the Torres' - who were there for the same reason - as fellow passengers on the No. 22 bus on Washington Street on Sept. 16. He says that the ticket must have fallen out of his pocket and the Torres' picked it up.

The Torres' say that claim is absurd, since they drove their own car to Hoboken that day and never take the bus.

After both the Torres' and Mendez were interviewed by investigators for the Lottery Commission, the director said she was prepared to give the money to the Torres siblings, unless Mendez thought he had a good enough case to bring to court.

So there they were yesterday, all three of them and their attorneys, each side trying to convince a jury that its tale of the ticket is the true one. At stake is $1.4 million, the amount left after taxes and a lump-sum payment fee were taken from the $4 million jackpot.

Testifying yesterday before state Superior Court Judge Camille M. Kenny in Jersey City, Mendez said that after buying the ticket he glanced at it once, for a few seconds, as he walked out of the store that day, then put it in his pocket and virtually forgot about it. He didn't sign it.

It wasn't until more than a week later, when the winning numbers - and the store at which the lucky ticket was bought, the Sunshine Grocery - were published in the newspaper, that his memory was jogged.

The numbers on the ticket Mendez bought were randomly generated, selected by computer at the lottery terminal. But, he testified yesterday, the first two digits - 7 and 11 - had stuck in his mind because it is the numerical rendering of the date of his mother's wedding anniversary: July 11.

Another number in the six-digit sequence - 33 - was significant, Mendez said, because he had just turned 34, so 33 had been his age until four days before the day in question.

When he heard those numbers, 12 days after the drawing, Mendez said he knew right away he had a winner.

"I said, 'that's my number, I won!'" Mendez testified. "The key was the 7, 11."

After a frantic search of pants pockets, drawers and old jackets, Mendez realized the winner was gone and contacted the Lottery Commission, setting in motion an investigation into the disputed ticket's ownership.

The Torres' argument is pretty simple: They're in possession of the winning slip.

David Balk, their attorney, dismissed Mendez's story, saying he never had the ticket in question and only ascribed significance to the digits 7 and 11 after he knew the winning number.

Mendez initially said he bought the ticket after his 2 p.m. doctor's appointment that day - at 2:16, to be precise - but then, after he was told when the winning ticket was bought, said it may have been before his appointment. The Torres' say they bought the ticket just before taking their sister to lunch that day, at either 1 or 1:05 p.m.

As it turns out, both sides were a little off: The ticket was sold at 1:34 p.m., according to lottery records.

Three other Pick 6 tickets were sold between noon and 4 p.m. that day, but Mendez insists his was the number that began with 7 and 11. One of the other tickets began with 7 and 12, but Mendez said that definitely wasn't his ticket - he said those numbers wouldn't have any significance to him worth remembering.

The Lottery Commission deposited the $1.4 million with the court, to be released to whoever wins the case.

Kenny, who declined a summary motion from Balk to dismiss the case, said that if Mendez could prove he was the one who bought the ticket, he will have a legitimate claim to the money.

"As I look at the law of lost property," Kenny said yesterday, before declining the motion and allowing testimony to proceed, "it is not 'finder's keepers, losers weepers,' as we learn in the schoolyard. If Mr. Mendez bought the ticket, he has a claim to it."

Jersey Journal

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6 comments. Last comment 13 years ago by CASH Only.
Page 1 of 1
vincejr's avatar - wallace
Somewhere in VA
United States
Member #1944
July 29, 2003
130 Posts
Posted: October 30, 2003, 2:31 pm - IP Logged

Two notes about the above article....

First, someone really needs to clue these reporters in that there is no such thing as a "lump-sum payment fee". If you choose to take the cash option/lump sum/whatever you want to call it, you get what the lottery was going to "put in the bank". They don't charge you a fee for taking it all at once, you just get less.

Second, why would anyone sign a ticket once they bought it? You don't need to sign the ticket unless you win more than $600, and when you buy it, unless you are psychic, you wouldn't know if you have won.

Idiot reporters....

    RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
    United States
    Member #9
    March 24, 2001
    19825 Posts
    Posted: October 30, 2003, 4:09 pm - IP Logged

    Sounds like Mendez thinks the winnings should be awarded to the best story teller rather than the persons holding the winning ticket.  I'm surprise that others that bought a ticket at that store or those that could have bought a ticket at that store haven't come forward with a good story.


     * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
                 Evil Looking       

      Bug's avatar - avatar php?userid=678402&dateline=1071851147

      United States
      Member #788
      October 15, 2002
      471 Posts
      Posted: October 30, 2003, 11:12 pm - IP Logged


      How these things are allowed to go to trial is beyond me? The lawyers will make some money, and they may be able to secure that loot since the lottery commision gave the court the jackpot. This might be common place in the future, sleezy. Nice to have a time stamp on our picks on the Jackpot Games board if lightning ever hits.

        United States
        Member #379
        June 5, 2002
        11296 Posts
        Posted: November 3, 2003, 8:14 am - IP Logged

        "Lump-sum payment fee" sounds like annuity-hawking brainwash.

          Irvington, N.J.
          United States
          Member #2683
          November 3, 2003
          31 Posts
          Posted: November 3, 2003, 2:29 pm - IP Logged

          It is not true that you only sign your ticket if you win.  I sign my tickets as a show of faith.  Moreover, I also had a winning ticket, the ticket that was mailed in.  The man that mailed in the ticket used a ficticious name, Melvin Milligan is not his real name, his real name is Al Oliver, and I accidentally left the ticket over his house.  Because his family members are politically connected, I do not have the court available to me as a recourse for proof.  Therefore, I must use other means. 

          You choose cash or annuity when you buy the ticket.  THe ticket was cash, not annuity, however, news articles indicate the he choose annuity.  Someone was working with him.  Moreover, the ticket was not bought on June 9, 2000 the date of the drawing, however, I can furnish the real date however, I must find someone who will not be stonewalled.  This ticket was worth $46 million and you can't trust people when that much money is involved.  These people think that because of their position, they can get away with doing something to people who are virtually unknown, like myself. 

          In the winners list on the New Jersey Lottery sight, the winner information was posted under Pick-6, for Melvin Milligan,  instead of under Big Game to cover up the actions of those involved.  Moreover, although the news articles indicated that the ticket was mailed in right before it was about to expire, you will also see on the winner list it indicates that the ticket was paid May 21, 2001.

          I am proof that corruption exists.  However, before it's all over, I will reveal the truth because I won't stop until some listens.

            United States
            Member #379
            June 5, 2002
            11296 Posts
            Posted: November 5, 2003, 8:34 am - IP Logged

            In New Jersey, the MM betslips have the "cash" and "annuity" boxes; however, the choice is not binding. If you selected "annuity" you do have a 60-day window in which to notify the NJ Lottery you instead want cash. The Pick-6 betslips do not have the two boxes.

            In NY, however, the choice for MM has to be made when you play; if you choose annuity and you "win", you CANNOT change your mind.