Co-Worker to Pay 5 NJ Men Millions in Lottery Suit

Jury ruled that Americo Lopes made off with the winning ticket himself after they all contributed to the pool

Thursday, Mar 15, 2012  |  Updated 8:39 AM EDT
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Five construction workers who claimed a colleague cheated them out of their share of a multimillion-dollar lottery jackpot have been awarded $4 million each by a New Jersey jury, their lawyer said.

A unanimous verdict was reached Wednesday morning by the jury, which heard the lawsuit in state Superior Court in Elizabeth. The panel rejected the claims of Americo Lopes, 52, who had claimed he won the 2009 jackpot on a personal ticket — not with a ticket he bought as part a lottery pool with the co-workers.

Attorney Rubin Sinins represented the five men and says the $38.5 million jackpot was worth $24 million because Lopes chose the cash option. But he declined to discuss or provide more specific details on the amounts the plaintiffs would receive.

"Our clients all feel vindicated" by the verdict, Sinins said. "This has been their position all along; they've been challenged in their position and the jury saw it their way. They are very gratified."

Earlier Wednesday, court spokeswoman Sandra Thaler-Gerber had said each plaintiff would get a pre-tax payment of $2 million. She did not return a message seeking information about the discrepancy between her statement and the lawyer's statement.

The Star-Ledger of Newark said Lopes left court with his wife shortly after the verdict was handed up. Speaking in Portuguese, Lopes said he had been robbed as he walked quickly out of the courtroom.

When the verdict was announced, the five plaintiffs embraced one another in the courtroom. They and Lopes had all worked together at an Elizabeth-based construction firm, where they began playing the lottery together in 2007.

"I have a lot to do," plaintiff Carlos Fernandez said. "My granddaughter was born yesterday. I have to buy her a present she'll remember."

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