A $12 million Texas lottery winner who bought his lucky ticket with drug proceeds got two strikes today: a 24-year federal prison sentence and an order to return the money.
A federal judge sentenced Jose Luis Betancourt, 52, who was convicted by a jury in June of conspiracy and two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The jury in a second verdict said Betancourt should forfeit his lottery jackpot because the ticket was purchased with drug proceeds.
Betancourt had been trafficking cocaine more than two years before his arrest and was dealing cocaine days after the winnings were deposited into his bank account, according to testimony at his trial.
Evidence showed he managed and organized the distribution of more than 100 kilograms of cocaine between May 2002 and January.
Betancourt won the money Dec. 11. Prosecutors said that on Jan. 14, after lottery officials verified his winning ticket, approximately $5.5 million -- representing the cash-out proceeds minus an amount withheld for federal income taxes -- was deposited into Betancourt's bank account.
Jurors heard a Jan. 16 recording of Betancourt delivering 36 grams of cocaine to a confidential informant and discussing his 20-year involvement in drug trafficking and his association with the Gulf Cartel. He told the informant he had more cocaine at his apartment.
Agents searched Betancourt's apartment the next day and found an additional 1.63 kilograms of cocaine and drug paraphernalia hidden in the dishwasher and pantry.
Testimony showed that Betancourt had not filed or paid federal income tax since 1989.
The defense was unable to back a claim that Betancourt bought the ticket with money he earned selling used clothing.