The rags-to-riches story of Jaime Chavez Ramos has a new plot: He has signed over a $10 million SuperLotto jackpot to Benjamin Garcia, whom Ramos identified as his cousin.
Four days after telling reporters that he was an instant millionaire, Ramos, who lives in the Fresno area, told lottery officials that Garcia actually paid the $1 for the winning quick-pick ticket at Church Market in Calwa.
He then signed documents that legally turned the jackpot over to Garcia, said Norma Minas, a Lottery spokeswoman in Sacramento. "There's no problems. Everything is on the up and up," Minas said.
In the past, some winners have used friends, relatives, accountants and lawyers as proxies to avoid the media spotlight. The law, however, requires that the true winner be publicly identified, Minas said.
In this case, Ramos on Feb. 5 told lottery officials in Fresno that he purchased the winning ticket. Then on Feb. 9, he said Garcia had actually bought it, Minas said. Ramos and Garcia could not be reached to comment. A clerk at Church Market said Ramos has not been to the market since declaring himself the winner on television and in The Bee. Efforts to reach Ramos at Mission Foods, where he inputs data for $9.05 an hour, were unsuccessful.
The lottery is played by people from all over the world, with past winners coming from France, Japan and Mexico, Minas said. To claim a prize, the winner must be 18 or older and show a valid photo identification, such as a passport.
Lottery officials say Garcia was the only person to pick all six numbers -- 3, 9, 20, 26, 41 and Mega number 23 -- in the SuperLotto Plus drawing on Feb. 4. He opted for quick cash on the $10 million jackpot, Minas said.
If he had provided a U.S. Social Security number, he would have paid about 26% of the jackpot in taxes, Minas said. Instead, he paid a higher tax rate of 31%, making the total about $5.4 million.
Lottery officials can only reveal the winner's name, where the ticket was purchased and the amount of the jackpot. The winner must authorize the release of additional information; Garcia declined to give permission, Minas said.
"I know people like to hear who won, what they do for a living, the rag to riches story," Minas said. But it's not unusual for winners to remain anonymous; only one out of 10 winners opt to have a news conference, she said.
Ramos initially showed up to claim the prize about 10 minutes before the lottery office closed on Feb. 5, said Isidro Ramirez, sales manager for the Lottery office in Fresno.
Three people were with Ramos, including Garcia, whom Ramos identified as his cousin, Ramirez said. At the time, he never mentioned being a proxy for Garcia.
Soon after, Ramos spoke with reporters about the thrill of winning the jackpot. "I'm very happy and nervous," he said. "I'm very nervous because it's a lot of money."
Ramos, who is not married, also said he has played the California Lottery for about 20 years, normally dropping $10 a week on quick picks. He planned to keep his job at Mission Foods, buy a house and a car and invest in a business.
His plans apparently changed Feb. 9, when he canceled a morning news conference at the Fresno lottery office. He and Garcia later arrived at the lottery office, gave lottery officials an interview, and signed over the jackpot to Garcia.
The switch in winners will not affect the owners of Church Market, where the winning ticket was purchased, Ramirez said. Ammar "Mike" Saleh, 23, and his brother, Amin "Sam" Saleh, 21, will get $50,000 for selling the winning ticket.