A Cook County judge set bail at $25,000 Wednesday for a Chicago Board Options Exchange clerk accused of swiping her co-workers' winning $175,000 lottery ticket.
But Dora Leal's attorney insisted the clerk thought the Mega Millions ticket was worth less than $10 and that there was no chicanery intended -- she just misplaced the ticket.
"This is completely out of her character," attorney Robert Kuzas said after her bond hearing. "She's very distraught over this."
Police charged Leal, 44, of North Spaulding Avenue, with felony theft for allegedly pocketing the ticket on Dec. 31. A group of 16 CBOE traders had given Leal a stack of tickets to take to a nearby store to check for winners. She returned all of the tickets except for the winner, police said.
Birju Shah, the owner of the store that sold the ticket, has said Leal was told the ticket's value and was taken into a back office, where Leal signed the ticket's back. It was then photocopied at the store, along with a receipt showing it was a $175,000 winner.
Leal isn't disputing that the ticket belongs to the traders. Kuzas said she would sign an affidavit attesting to its rightful ownership.
Nonetheless, the ticket is missing, Kuzas said.
That could send the case into a civil courtroom because the state, short of a court order, needs the actual ticket to pay the winnings. To get a court order, the traders would have to sue to force the state into paying, said lottery spokesman Anne Plohr Rayhill.
What exactly happened to the ticket is a mystery, Kuzas insists.
"The only thing I can say without equivocation is she does not have the ticket," Kuzas said. "It could have been someone kept it at the store or someone took it out of her pocket. There are myriad possibilities."
When the ticket came up a winner Dec. 31, several people at the store saw it happen, and word quickly got back to the traders at the CBOE. When Leal didn't return with the ticket, they began to hound her about it, witnesses said.
Kuzas said Leal has felt that the CBOE traders and employees are like family. The incident hasn't altered her opinion, Kuzas said.
"What they feel about her does not in any way change what she feels about them," he said.
Leal appeared in a West Side courtroom via closed-circuit television for her hearing. She did not speak as Judge Raymond Myles set her bail.
Her husband, two daughters and sister went to court but left without commenting. Leal made bail Wednesday night.