"We owe nothing!"
New York's newest mega-millionaire, Richard Morrison, was adamant as he entered a limo, with wife Mary outside lottery headquarters in Garden City. The Miller Place couple was surrounded by reporters, asking again and again about the alleged $950,000 debt the lottery winners owe Suffolk county.
The Morrisons refused to say anything more about the matter that has dogged them since claiming last month's $165 million mega-millions jackpot.
Even lottery officials intervened to deflect reporters' questions as the Morrisons were presented a ceremonial check today.
But while the couple dodged questions, they didn't pocket all their winnings.
Under a Suffolk court agreement, that $950,000 has been placed in an escrow account pending a court hearing on the dispute.
Suffolk County insists it has a court judgment against the Morrisons for the money, claiming the couple overcharged the county for salaries and other expenses while operating county homeless shelters.
The court hearing is set for later this month.
In the meantime, the Morrisons say they will buy a new car, take a vacation and stage the wedding they never had. Richard Morrison even proposed again to his wife of 39 years at Thursday's ceremony and with a laugh, she said yes, again.
Suffolk County officials say the Morrisons should "do the right thing" and pay off the debt so that the money can be used to help others in need.
The Morrisons' attorney, Michael Solomon, said his clients owe nothing because the audit involved the nonprofit corporation, Love'M Sheltering, and not the Morrisons as individuals.
"This is the first time that they ever heard that the county was attempting to claim that Richard and Mary Morrison, as individuals, had any responsibility,'' Solomon said.
"These are the most honest, giving people in the world,'' Solomon said. "If they believed that this was their legal responsibility to pay, they would have made arrangements to pay a long time ago.''