Massachusetts Lottery ‘Winner’ Stole $4 Million Ticket from Immigrant Who Thought He’d Won $4,000, Claims Lawsuit
Posted on: January 27, 2020, 11:22h.
Last updated on: January 27, 2020, 12:21h.
A Massachusetts woman who claimed a $4 million scratch-ticket prize in December 2019 is now accused of exploiting the alleged real winner because he couldn’t speak English.
Susana Gaspar, of New Bedford, made the local news when she became the second winner of the Massachusetts State Lottery’s “$4,000,000 Gold Rush” instant ticket game. But she hit the headlines again this week after becoming the subject of a civil lawsuit that accuses her of conspiring with another woman to steal the ticket from Portuguese immigrant Joao Luis DaPonte.
DaPonte claims in his lawsuit that he bought the ticket at Café Sao Paulo in New Bedford. Seeing the “$4 MIL” symbol on the ticket, he believed he had won $4,000, since “mil” translates as “thousand” in Portuguese.
DaPonte claims he asked Maria Oliveira — also named as a defendant — to cash the ticket for him. He knew she had done the same for others in the past in return for a small percentage of the winnings.
Lost in Translation
But according the suit, Oliveira took the ticket to Gaspar, her boss at the next-door Goulart Bakery, and the two allegedly concocted a scheme to defraud DaPonte.
“As part of their scheme, the defendant Oliveira provided the ticket to defendant Gaspar so she could sign the ticket and present it to the Lottery Commission for payment,” the suit says.
Gaspar chose to take the lump sum, which equated to $2.6 million before taxes, and Oliveira gave DaPonte $3,800 in “winnings,” the filing claims.
But several days later, DaPonte was shocked to discover that Oliveira’s boss at the bakery had won $4 million on a Gold Rush ticket that had been purchased in the same place he had bought his.
DaPonte said he showed friends a photocopy he had taken of the ticket before he had handed it over to Oliveira and they explained to him what “mil” meant. The penny finally dropped – 400 million of them.
“I realized that I had been robbed and taken advantage of. This hurt me so much, and I still feel terrible about this whole situation,” DaPonte said, according to the filing.
‘Doesn’t Add Up:’ Lawyer
Oliveira has denied that she cashes scratch tickets for others, that she gave DaPonte $3,800, or that she “ever received any lottery ticket from Mr. DaPonte at any time.”
Meanwhile, Gaspar claims she was “duped” by Oliveira into believing the latter had found the ticket and agreed to split the winnings with her.
Walter P. Faria, an attorney for Gaspar and Oliveira, told The Standard-Times that there were certain things about DaPont’s account that didn’t add up, such as that prior to approaching Oliveira with the ticket, he did not actually know her.
“Why do you hand it to a stranger?” he asked. “It’s hard to imagine someone else (a friend or family member) didn’t recognize it was $4 million, not $4,000.”
He also claims it’s possible that the photocopy of the ticket has been faked.
The jackpot money is currently being held in an interest-bearing escrow account until the dispute is settled.
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