In a civil lawsuit that began Tuesday in Elizabeth, N.J., plaintiffs are accusing Americo Lopes of fraud, and demand that he share his winnings with them.
Lopes was the organizer of a lottery pool at the construction company where he worked, and made regular purchases of betting tickets. On Nov. 10, 2009 he held a winning Mega Millions ticket, but did not inform his co-workers, instead telling his supervisor he required time off for foot surgery, the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger reported. In March 2010 he returned to inform his boss he'd won the lottery and would not return to work, court papers said.
Candido Silva Sr. told the Star-Ledger the group was initially happy for Lopes, until Silva went online and discovered the date Lopes won matched a date the pool had played a lottery ticket.
"I froze. I didn't want to believe that these were the dates we were playing together," he told the newspaper.
In court, plaintiff attorney Eric Kahn emphasized Lopes' alleged deception after the windfall, never having had surgery and continuing to collect off-season unemployment checks, customary in the industry.
Lopes' attorney called the winnings a coincidence, and questioned the men's behavior after they gave Lopes money to buy tickets.
"These guys were trying to win a lottery," defense attorney Michael Mazzacca said, "and they never asked to see the tickets?"