15.8 million euros
The lottery winner hides the syndicate’s huge payout
Americo Lopes was tested.
Frances Micklow, photo association, Associated Press
and Wiebke Tomescheit
Americo Lopes has to pay about three million US dollars each to five of his former colleagues. He had previously won the overall victory on his own.
Americo Lopes and his colleagues played the lottery together
Money does strange things to people, and they don’t always look better when wealth attracts them. This was demonstrated in the case of a 62-year-old man from New Jersey, who should have been perfectly happy, but instead had to waste time and money on a court case – and has been left with a damaged reputation ever since.
The builder, named Americo Lopes, worked for many years with a team of colleagues with whom he became close friends outside of work. His colleague helped him privately in the renovation of his house, and he himself was invited to the baptism of another employee’s daughter. Friends, who worked hard every day, decided in 2007 to start a union. The prospect of a comfortable retirement without problems and worries must have pleased each of them. And so everyone involved contributed two dollars a week for tickets.
Syndicate was defrauded out of 15.8 million euros
Since the friends trusted each other, they did not write anything. And apparently they didn’t question Americo Lopes when he announced after visiting a lottery kiosk in 2010 that he had another bad luck. What the men didn’t know: Lopes lied, the syndicate had actually won $17.5 million (about 15.8 million euros) after taxes. However, Lopes’ previous company had no plans to share the money. He just didn’t mention the stroke of luck.
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The day after winning the lottery, he wrote to his boss that he had to retire early because of the results of the leg surgery and would no longer be able to come to work. To keep up appearances, he even applied for unemployment benefits. On the other hand, he now quickly paid off his house, treated himself to a new Chevrolet, a trip to Portugal, and generously distributed money to various family members. But still no one suspected that he had won the lottery.
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Americo Lopes scam was blocked due to serious fraud
But wealth went to his head more and more. Eventually, Lopes decided to sell his poor house in New Jersey and buy a big dream house instead. Price: 1.5 million US dollars. It was also at this time that he happened to meet an old colleague at work, and he couldn’t help but tell him that he was very lucky and won the lottery a week after he retired.
If the 62-year-old lied better, he might even get away with it. But a big win just a week after suddenly disappearing from a construction company with an alleged broken leg? That seemed very suspicious to a former friend and colleague. The man did some research and discovered that Americo Lopes had pocketed his money before leaving the company. In anger, he informed other colleagues from the syndicate.
The Syndicate sues the wrong friend and wins
The five affected construction workers did not hesitate and quickly realized that there was only one way for them to get the money they were owed: they sued their former friend and colleague. That turned out to be difficult because there was no script, everything depended on trust. But everyone involved was able to testify with certainty how the syndicate had started, how his colleagues organized the weekly participation and how long the round lasted while Americo Lopes was a member. In addition, another colleague who had not played himself was able to confirm that he knew about it.
And so the process did not end well for Lopes, who stubbornly claimed until the end that his plot was private and not the one he bought with his colleagues. However, the judges did not consider this to be normal. They cursed the 62-year-old man that he had to pay his former colleagues nearly three million US dollars each. So there was nothing left for Lopes himself: he had already blown five million dollars by the time of the trial.
Note: This article first appeared on stern.de.