When did Julie Prive learn the number of a lottery ticket worth $4 million?
The outcome of a civil case pitting Prive, 27, who worked at the Tedeschi's in East Falmouth when the $10 scratch ticket was sold, against two other Falmouth residents could hinge on the answer to that question.
Prive is being sued by Raymond MacDonald, 65, and Monica Hertz, 62, who both claim ownership of the $600 Million Spectacular ticket.
MacDonald and Hertz both say they bought the ticket May 17, 2002, but did not realize it was a winner after scratching it. One of them gave it to Prive so she could enter it herself in a secondary lottery drawing.
Taking the stand in Barnstable Superior Court again yesterday, Prive admitted telling MacDonald and Hertz the $4 million winning ticket was number 94, when it was actually 93.
Prive made the admission during questioning by attorney Leigh Ann Patterson, who represents MacDonald and Hertz.
The $600 Million Spectacular tickets were numbered and sold from a "book," according to Prive's testimony.
After it was announced May 21 that the winning ticket was sold at Tedeschi's, MacDonald and Hertz spoke to Prive. That's when she told them the winning ticket was number 94.Patterson confronted Prive, all but accusing her of lying to cheat MacDonald or Hertz.
Did she not provide a false number to keep them "from piecing together the evidence?" Patterson asked.
"No, that's not true," Prive said.
When testifying earlier in the week, MacDonald said he likes to purchase high-numbered tickets and thus was keeping track of the numbers on the tickets he bought that day. But MacDonald could not say exactly how many tickets he purchased that day.
Under questioning by her attorney, Prive said she gave the wrong ticket number to MacDonald and Hertz because she scrutinized the ticket "only briefly" before she initialed it, took it back to the store and put it in the store safe. Her husband cashed in the ticket four days later on May 21.
"Everyone makes mistakes," Prive said.
Earlier testimony disputed
During her testimony yesterday, Prive disputed MacDonald's earlier testimony about how she came into possession of the winning ticket.
MacDonald and Hertz say they gave Prive their discarded tickets, one of which turned out to be the winner. Together the couple purchased 45 tickets that day.
MacDonald, who is retired, is an avid lottery player who said he spends up to $100 a day on tickets. He won a $2 million jackpot on a scratch ticket in 1997 and testified that he typically keeps his losing tickets for tax purposes and would not normally have given the tickets to the clerk. He said Hertz gave her ticket to Prive so he followed her lead.
But yesterday Prive testified that she received discarded tickets from MacDonald, not Hertz, and collected other tickets thrown in the trash on May 17, 2002.
The tickets were to be returned to the lottery commission as part of its anti-litter Clean Fun Sweepstakes program, Prive said. Under the program, which no longer exists, a person could be entered into a drawing for $100,000 each time they turned in $10 worth of non-winning scratch tickets.
Small prizes won
Prive, who made a habit of collecting tossed-away scratch tickets, testified that she had won small prizes from discarded tickets in the past.
MacDonald testified earlier that he did not expect Prive to share the money had she won the Clean Fun Sweepstakes, but did expect her to return a winning $4 million ticket.The winning ticket pays $200,000 a year before taxes for 20 years. So far, Prive and her husband, David, have collected $600,000 before taxes.
Lottery commission officials said they will continue to pay the couple until told to do otherwise by the court
In a deposition prior to the trial, Prive said she sold lottery tickets to MacDonald at about 2 p.m. But lottery records show the winning ticket must have been sold after 4 p.m., Patterson said, adding that MacDonald and Hertz bought tickets at the store between 4 and 5 p.m. Prive admitted her earlier testimony about what time MacDonald and Hertz bought the tickets was in error.
MacDonald claims he bought tickets 99 to 88 from a new book. When a clerk opens a new book of tickets they are required to notify the lottery commission. But MacDonald testified that he bought tickets from two different books that day.
Patterson also challenged conflicting accounts Prive gave the media about whether she had won big in the lottery. She denied winning to a radio reporter, and she told the Cape Cod Times that she purchased the ticket after she got off work. She later told lottery officials that she found the ticket.
"I didn't want 100 people coming to my door," Prive said defending her actions. She said she was worried about lawsuits and possible risks to her family.
Hertz still hospitalized
Hertz remains in Falmouth Hospital, where she was admitted Sunday for treatment of blood clots.
Judge John Connor Jr. allowed Hertz's March 5 deposition to be read as testimony yesterday in her absence.
Hertz said that when she filed an affidavit in July 2002, she did not mention Prive citing an inaccurate ticket number.
State lottery commission lawyer William Egan testified yesterday that neither MacDonald nor Hertz filed a complaint alleging lost winnings.
The Lottery requires a winning ticket to be signed before it can be redeemed, Egan said.
Based on that, David Prive "would be the appropriate claimant," Egan said, because he signed the winning ticket.
Egan also said MacDonald and Hertz are suing the lottery commission for allowing the Prives to collect on the disputed prize.
Connor has imposed a gag order in the case, forbidding those involved in the trial from talking with reporters. The trial is due to resume today.