Disputed Lottery Winners Head To Court

7:46 PM, Jan 18, 2011   |    comments
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Erick Cervantes (right)in November 2010

Jose Antoni Cua-Toc and Erick Cervantes head to court Jan. 28 in their dispute over a $750,000 winning lottery ticket.

Cua-Toc claims in a lawsuit filed in Houston County Superior Court that he bought the ticket and turned it over to Cervantes to collect the money for him.

He did that, Cua-Toc claims in his suit, after Cervantes allegedly told Cua-Toc that he couldn't get the money because he didn't have proper documentation.

Because of the lawsuit, Superior Court Judge George Nunn Jr. issued a restraining order Dec. 21 to prevent anyone from spending any of the lottery money prior to the Jan. 28 hearing.

At the hearing, Nunn is scheduled to consider whether to keep the restraining order in place or lift it. Cua-Toc's civil lawsuit will be decided later.

But one thing's certain in the dispute over the Jingle Jumbo Bucks lottery ticket. It was sold on Nov. 17 at OM Food Market on Feagin Mill Road in Warner Robins.

Cervantes' attorney, Kelly Burke of Warner Robins, likened the lotttery ticket purchase to someone giving a friend money to purchase something.

"You didn't buy it," Burke said. "You were just the conduit by which the money got from my pocket to the grocery store, and that's essentially what we're saying, that this ticket at all times belonged to Erick Cervantes."

While Burke says he doesn't know Cua-Toc's immigration status, he said people don't have to be in the country legally to win the lottery.

"In fact, the Georgia Lottery would be happy if people came over here and played the lottery whether they're legal or not," Burke said.

J.B. Landroche, vice president of corporate affairs for the Georgia Lottery, confirmed that anyone, including visitors from other countries, can purchase lottery tickets and collect winnings.

But Landroche said non-residents pay a higher tax rate on their winnings than residents. He said non-residents pay 36 percent in taxes while residents pay 31 percent.

Burke also questioned the logic in letting a friend collect lottery ticket winning, adding that he wouldn't do it.

"Naw. Naw. I don't have any friends like that," Burke said.

Neither does Wendy Chambers of Warner Robins.

"No," she said, "I don't have friends like that. But it could happen. You know, money does things to people."

Chambers also said it would put too much responsibility on someone else to collect lottery money for you.

Cua-Toc's attorney, Herb Wells of Perry, couldn't be reached for comment.

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