Historic $2 billion Powerball winner sued by man who claims his ticket was stolen
The winner of California’s record $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot last year is being sued by a man who claims the ticket was stolen from him before the winning numbers were revealed.
Edwin Castro won the record prize in the November 2022 draw and was identified in February. At the time, he said he was “shocked and ecstatic” and opted to accept the jackpot in a lump sum payment of $997.6 million.
The same month he was identified, a man named Jose Rivera filed a civil suit in the Superior Court of the Alhambra, claiming that the jackpot should be his.
The lawsuit was filed against Castro, the California State Lottery Commission, the State of California, and a man named Urachi F. Romero, whom Rivera accused of taking his ticket.
Jose Rivera purchased a $2.04 billion Powerball lottery ticket on Nov. 7, 2022, at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, Calif., a day before the draw, according to the complaint.
But that same day, Rivera alleges that Romero stole the ticket. The complaint did not specify how the alleged theft occurred.
After Romero allegedly stole the ticket, Rivera made “numerous demands and demands to return it,” but Romero refused, according to the complaint.
On November 8, 2022, the winning numbers were drawn, and Rivera renewed his demands that Romero return the ticket. But, Romero reportedly responded by saying “the ticket was a loser or if I find the ticket we can split the winnings 50/50,” the complaint said.
Rivera reported the alleged theft from the California Lottery and law enforcement, according to court documents.
On February 14, the California State Lottery Commission and the State of California announced Edwin Castro as the Powerball winner. Lottery officials said they went through a verification process to ensure the ticket and claim were legitimate.
Rivera submitted a claim form to the California Lottery in Santa Fe Springs three days later, claiming her ticket was stolen.
That same day, his attorney sent a letter to the California Lottery claiming the winning ticket was stolen from Rivera.
“Until the February 14, 2023 announcement, Mr. Rivera had been threatened that his winning ticket would be destroyed if he did not agree to split the winnings,” the letter to the California Lottery said.
The complaint says Rivera asked the California Lottery to retain all images showing the winning ticket purchased at Joe’s Service Center.
Rivera says he’s entitled to the jackpot, claiming he suffered emotional damage, trespassing (i.e. using property without the owner’s permission), and intentional interference with potential economic relationships in the alleged ordeal.
The California Lottery said it does not comment on pending litigation, but expressed “the utmost confidence” in the organization’s verification process for winners.
“California Lottery remains confident that Edwin Castro is the rightful winner of the $2.04 billion prize resulting from the Powerball draw in November 2022,” said deputy director and state lottery spokesperson Carolyn Becker.
A subpoena was served on April 25 at a sprawling $25.5 million home in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, which has been sold in March, according to online records.
But the person at home allegedly told the bailiffs “we are serving the wrong Edwin Castro,” according to a May 17 filing.
On Thursday, a motion to set aside service of a subpoena was filed by an attorney for Castro. He said the summons was issued to Edwin H. Castro – the father of actual Powerball winner Edwin G. Castro.
A statement attached to the petition from Edwin G. Castro, the actual jackpot winner, said he never personally received a summons. He acknowledged that the Los Angeles home where his father was served was his. He did not address the claims about the ticket in his file.
A hearing is scheduled for July 19 on this request.
NBC News has reached out to attorneys for Rivera and Castro for comment. Romero, who did not file a response to the court filing, could not be reached on Friday.