WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) – A 70-year-old man says he won $500,000 in the Florida Lottery – then lost his winning ticket – and that the state is wavering on its promise to pay him. Louis Tolentino says lottery officials have delayed his payout despite confirming that he had scanned in the winning ticket at a liquor store just moments before it disappeared.
Tolentino claims in Palm Beach County Court that Florida’s state-run lottery assured him he’d receive the $500,000 winnings if no one presented his lost ticket by June 4, the date the Gold Rush scratch-off game was scheduled to end.
But the Florida Lottery reneged four days after the June 4 deadline and postponed his payout, perhaps indefinitely, Tolentino says.
Tolentino claims he bought the winning ticket last summer, then lost it within hours.
On the morning of July 29, after discovering that he had won, he asked for directions to the lottery department’s new office in West Palm Beach, and “when he arrived home, the ticket was no longer in [his] possession,” Tolentino says.
Tolentino says he “filed a police report … alleging that the ticket had been stolen from him, which he believed occurred when he stopped to ask for directions.”
Though Florida’s lotto rules generally require a winning ticket to be presented for a payout, the lottery department in November granted Tolentino’s petition to claim the winnings, after verifying that he scanned his ticket at a Lake Worth liquor store.
The department’s security division found that his ticket had been validated at the liquor store’s lottery terminal on the morning he said he’d won, the complaint states.
Tolentino says the lotto department issued a final order guaranteeing him the $500,000, so long as no one else came forward by the end of the scratch-off game, originally scheduled for June 4.
He claims the Florida Lottery’s lawyer, Louisa Warren, told him that the cash would be his 90 days after the game ended.
But Tolentino says that on June 8, he learned that the Gold Rush game did not close out, and that “a new end of game date had not been scheduled because there was a sufficient inventory of tickets still available for the game to remain on sale for several more months.”
Tolentino adds: “There allegedly is no current end of game date scheduled and it is conceivable that the game could continue indefinitely, thereby rendering the Final Order worthless.”
Tolentino says he did not want to sue, but the postponement of the payment has undermined his confidence that the lottery would follow through on its promises.
He seeks declaratory judgment and wants the court to order the lottery to pay him the $500,000.
He is represented by Michael Freeling with Bloom & Freeling of Boca Raton.