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Undocumented Immigrant Wins Lotto Ticket Suit

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

An undocumented-immigrant day laborer hit the jackpot Thursday, when a jury declared him the owner of a winning lottery ticket in a dispute with a Georgia businessman.

Jose Antonio "Tony" Cua-Toc, 27, of Guatemala, sued business owner Erick Cervantes over ownership of the winning lottery ticket worth $750,000, The Sun News reports.

Cua-Toc and Cervantes offered dueling stories about who purchased the winning ticket. But store surveillance video ticket clearly showed who the rightful winner was, jurors said.

Video showed Jose Antonio Cua-Toc raising his hands in victory after the store's owner validated the undocumented immigrant's winning lotto ticket, The Sun News reports. Cua-Toc then hugged his girlfriend and took cell-phone photos of the ticket, the video showed.

That was November 2010. Georgia law allows foreign nationals to buy lotto tickets, but because of his undocumented status, Cua-Toc asked his boss Erick Cervantes to claim the jackpot on his behalf.

Cervantes claimed the jackpot, but kept it for himself. He insisted he'd given Cua-Toc $20 to buy the ticket for him, according to The Sun News.

Even if Cervantes' story were true, there's apparently no law about who owns a lottery ticket when someone else provides money to pay for it, a juror told The Sun News. That's why jurors focused on the surveillance video, which showed that Cua-Toc clearly bought the ticket.

Cua-Toc will receive the winning ticket's proceeds -- less than $500,000 after taxes -- along with $207,000 in attorney's fees and $25,000 in punitive damages, The Huffington Post reports.

But Cua-Toc's legal battles aren't over. Cervantes also accused Cua-Toc of making terrorist threats against his family. Prosecutors say they may proceed with the case, unless Cua-Toc returns to his native Guatemala. Cua-Toc has lived in the United States since 2000.

An immigration lawyer last year won Jose Cua-Toc the right to stay in the United States pending the outcome of his lotto ticket case. Meantime, the undocumented immigrant is serving 44 days in jail for a drunken-driving conviction, The Sun News reports.

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