A lawsuit against the biggest Powerball winner in US history alleges the lottery ticket that earned him nearly $1bn was stolen.
Edwin Castro drew the winning ticket —10, 33, 41, 47, 56, and Powerball 10 — last November, cashing in a hefty $997m from the initial $2bn prize after taxes.
Mr Castro, who bought the ticket at a convenience store in Altadena, went on to invest in real estate, including two lavish mansions totalling $29m in Los Angeles, and luxury cars.
But a lawsuit filed in February by plaintiff Jose Rivera alleges the winning ticket was stolen. According to court records obtained by the US Sun, Mr Rivera claims he was the rightful owner of the ticket, which was stolen by a man called “Reggie.”
Mr Rivera said in the filings that “Reggie,” who has since been identified as Urachi Romero and is also named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit, refused to give him back the ticket, saying he had lost it. However, Mr Romero reportedly promised to split the prize if he did find the ticket.
Mr Rivera claims he reported the incident to the police. A spokesperson for the California Lottery said in a statement to the US Sun that the agency believes Mr Castro is the rightful owner of the prize from the 8 November drawing.
Mr Castro has since been served with court documents regarding the lawsuit at his $25m Hollywood Hills mansion. According to the Sun, he has refused to comment on the ongoing lawsuit against him.
Meanwhile, Mr Rivera’s attorney has reportedly requested that video of the purchase be turned in as evidence.
Joe’s Service Center owner Joe Chayahed told the US Sun that he remembers Mr Rivera buying the ticket at his store last year.
“I knew the guy before he won, he came every morning to buy coffee, donuts, and tickets ... then he disappeared,” Mr Chayahed told the outlet. “I thought he was mad at me or something had happened, but then someone told me he won the money.”
The case will be reviewed during a hearing at the Alhambra Court House on 24 July to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed. The Independent has reached out to Mr Rivera’s attorneys.
After becoming the biggest Powerball winner in history, Mr Castro skipped a press conference held by the California lottery but later said in a statement that he was “shocked and ecstatic.”
Following California law, his name was made public and a percentage of the prize, $156m, went to the state’s 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 school system greatly benefits as well,” Mr Castro said in a statement at the time, according to The Guardian.
Mr Castro claimed his prize in February and chose to collect the totality of it in one payment.