A New Jersey man must give up $20 million of his $38.5 million lottery jackpot after a jury ruled he swindled his former co-workers out of their fair share of the winnings.
Americo Lopes, 52, took home a $24 million post-tax payout after he cashed in a winning ticket in Nov. 2009, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported. His co-workers -- all construction workers from Portugal -- sued, claiming the ticket was one they had purchased as part of a lottery pool. Lopes insisted the ticket was one he'd bought on his own and pointed to the winning numbers as proof, saying he only played the digits on tickets he purchased himself.
In a unanimous decision, an eight-member jury disagreed and ruled each of the five plaintiffs be paid $4 million.
"They robbed me," Lopes told the newspaper after the ruling.
The construction workers had testified that the group's pool dated back to 2007. According to ABC News, each player would put in $2, and Lopes would buy the tickets. When the winning numbers matched one of the tickets Lopes held, he took leave from work, claiming he needed foot surgery. When he returned, he told his co-workers he'd won the lottery. One of the regular players got suspicious and looked up the date of Lopes' win, only to find it had occurred the day they had all paid him money for tickets.
After the verdict, Eric Kahn, an attorney for the five men, told ABC his clients couldn't quite believe the ruling.
“It feels good. The jury believed our clients. They are vindicated. I think they are still in some shock,” he said. “It hasn’t set in yet.”
“We trusted him,” 46-year-old Jose Sousa told the New York Times of Lopes. “He cheated us....We proved that we’re not lying. This is the most important thing.”