|One of the 3 winners of the recent Big Game multi-state Lottery has been accused of betrayal by his co-workers in a New Jersey nursing home, who claim that they are entitled to a share of his $58.9 million prize.|
A ticket bought by an unnamed nurse’s aide at the Newark Health and Extended Care Facility hit the 7-state Big Game jackpot on April 16, and claimed the prize last week, according to New Jersey State Lottery officials. His 19 co-workers, meanwhile have demanded shares of $2.94 million each.
Lottery officials remain tight-lipped over the details, save that the winning ticket was bought at the 1-2-3 Food Mart, five miles west of Newark, and that a lawyer for the ticket holder had appeared at lottery headquarters in Trenton on Wednesday last week. Officials say that the ticket he brought had been validated as the winner.
The same afternoon however, lottery officials received a letter from Anthony H. Guerino, representing the 19 co-workers who had been in a workplace pool and were claiming equal shares in the prize.
Guerino was quoted in The Star-Ledger of Newark as saying that his clients had been deceived by a colleague. 'It's a lesson in humanity, and unfortunately, if we're correct, we've seen the worst side of humanity: avarice and greed,' Mr. Guerino was quoted as saying. Of his clients, he said: 'This was the American dream come true for them. They're distraught. They're angry that they've been cheated.'
Mr. Guerino was quoted as saying that employees at the nursing home had been pooling money for tickets for weeks as the Big Game jackpot continued to grow. He said the man who collected the money provided no receipts, though he kept the names of pool members.
Co-workers said the night after the drawing, the young man arrived for his night shift and acknowledged that he had bought the winner. There were celebrations, they said. A day later, however, they claim that he changed his story, more than once.
At first, according to Nurse’s aide Linda Artis, the young man told his colleagues he had lost the winning ticket. 'We said, `How the hell do you lose a ticket?' '
Later, the co-workers say, the man insisted that he had thrown all the tickets out.
Still later, they said, the man told them he had not bought the winner after all, but that the jackpot ticket actually belonged to his aunt. They said the young man had not been back to work in recent days.
Steve Restivo, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Lottery, said that lottery officials would meet this week to try to sort out the competing claims. The dispute was under investigation by the New Jersey Lottery Commission and the New Jersey attorney general's office. If state officials do not resolve the matter, court proceedings could follow.
Although the ticket holder has not been named Frank Cannone, a lawyer representing him was quoted by the Newark Star-Ledger as saying: 'Our position is that any claim made by this group has no factual basis whatsoever and we expect the state will resolve this immediately.'