By LAUREN SILVER
LOS ANGELES (Court TV) – A new lawsuit was filed against California, the state’s lottery and the winner of the largest lotto prize ever by a man who claims he had the winning ticket – but it was stolen.
The $2.04 billion Powerball drawn on November 8, 2022, was the largest lottery prize awarded, to date. In February, the California Lottery announced that Edwin Castro was the winner, having purchased the ticket at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena. At the time, Castro did not want to appear publicly and said he wanted to remain private.
In a statement at the time, Castro said, “As much as I am shocked and ecstatic to have won the Powerball drawing, the real winner is the California public school system. … As someone who received the rewards of being educated in the California public education system, it’s gratifying to hear that, as a result of my win, the California school system greatly benefits as well.”
But a lawsuit filed by Jose Rivera, which names the CA State Lottery Commission, the State of California, Edwin Castro and Urachi Romero as defendants alleges that Rivera was the rightful winner of the historic prize. The lawsuit alleges that Rivera purchased the ticket on Nov. 7 for the drawing scheduled the same day. The drawing actually took place on Nov. 8.
Rivera said that a person first identified in the lawsuit as “Reggie,” and later identified as Urachi Romero in a court filing, stole the ticket on Nov. 7 prior to the drawing. Rivera said that he tried multiple times to get the ticket back, but Romero refused.
After the winning numbers were drawn, Rivera again tried to get the ticket back from Romero, who allegedly told him that “the ticket was a loser” and “if I find the ticket we can split the winnings 50/50” but refused to return the ticket to the plaintiff. Rivera reported the theft to both law enforcement and the California Lottery, the lawsuit alleges.
When Rivera saw the lottery’s announcement that Castro had won the jackpot on Feb. 14, he attempted to present a claim form to the California Lottery in Chatsworth on Feb. 15, but was told that it would not be accepted. On Feb. 17, Rivera again tried to present a claim form to the California Lottery in Santa Fe Springs, along with a declaration saying that the ticket had been stolen. That form was accepted by the lottery office.
In a letter sent to the California Lottery by Rivera’s attorney, counsel asked for the opportunity to “view the video depicting the date and time of the purchase of the winning lottery ticket at Joe’s Service Center, where Mr. Rivera purchased the ticket on November 7, 2022. We also look forward to viewing any video that purports to depict Edwin Castro purchasing the winning ticket.”
Rivera said that to date, the lottery has not responded to his allegations that he is the rightful owner of the ticket. Meanwhile, Castro elected to receive a lump sum payout for the jackpot and was estimated to receive $997.6 million.
The lawsuit does not specify how Romero or Castro allegedly know each other or how the theft was carried out.