In Chicago, three bakery workers claim they’re owed dough — their fair share of $118 million in winnings from the Illinois State Lottery. They say they were part of a betting pool at the Pita Pan Old World Bakery in Chicago Heights that won the windfall in a May 4 drawing.
“What happened was this,” says attorney Michael LaMonica, the lawyer representing Jose Franco and Marco Medina, 2 of the 3 claimants. “This group had been running a pool since 2011. Normally, they collected money for the pool on Mondays and Thursdays.” His clients, he says, contributed to the pool for a May 1 drawing.
The group’s ticket won $9, and the modest winnings were re-invested in the drawing for May 4.
The collector came around as usual, says LaMonica. “But because some auditing was going on at the bakery, he switched the day of his collection to a Wednesday. For whatever reason, he didn’t ask my clients for any additional money.”
The ticket that the contributors bought won $118 million on May 4.
Now Franco and Medina say their co-workers are refusing to give them their fair share. Why do they feel they deserve part of the windfall? They paid into the ticket that won $9. And, since the $9 went into the purchase of the next ticket, they had an ownership stake in the $118 million winner.
The pool, they contend, had a standing agreement to divide its winnings equally. They say that if they’d been asked to contribute their customary share for the purchase of the winning ticket, they would have. Only nobody asked them for their money.
A third claimant, J. Santos Bello, is represented by a different attorney. His complaint, however, tells virtually the same story as the one filed by Franco and Medina.
The defendants — including Mario Juarez, who served as the collector of the group’s money, and Tony Koumalis and Doug Lein, who were the pool’s organizers — do not yet have legal representation. Sources say, they do not believe their former coworkers are entitled to a share of their winnings because they DID NOT contribute to the May 4 drawing.
“The law,” attorney LaMonica says, “views betting pools as joint ventures. It’s one-for-all and all-for-one. Everybody gets an equal share. There’s no way of knowing which dollar won.”
A spokesman for the Illinois Lottery says the winners have not yet come forward with their winning ticket, nor has the Lottery disbursed any of $118 million. Where there’s a dispute over who’s owed what, he says, the lottery’s policy is to wait until the dispute has been resolved to make a payout. “It generally ends up in court,” he says. “When they’ll get paid depends on how quickly the courts can dispose of it. It could take months.”