Ramon Ortiz, an undocumented worker who doesn't speak English, had no Social Security number to claim a $1 million Maryland lottery jackpot he won two years ago. So he gave the ticket to coworker Rosa Lopez to cash for him, he said.
Big mistake or big misunderstanding. Lopez kept the $450,000 payout, and Ortiz is now suing her for fraud, NBC reported Thursday. (Watch the video above.)
According to the Maryland Lottery's website, anyone cashing a ticket above $600 must have proof of a Social Security number and a photo ID to prove one is 18 or older. But Ortiz might have been able to get the prize on his own anyway.
"If the person does not have any documentation, I believe the person can still claim the prize, but the Lottery taxes the player’s prize winnings at the highest tax rate allowed by law for both federal and state taxes," Maryland Lottery spokesperson Carole Everett wrote in an email to The Huffington Post on Thursday.
It's now a case of he said/she said. Ortiz, a roofer who lives in Hyattsville, Md., but has four kids in his native Guatemala, would not identify his company so it doesn't get in trouble for hiring an illegal employee.
Ortiz and his lawyer, Milt Theologou, told NBCWashington.com that Ortiz had a deal with the accused in which she would hand over all the winnings -- instead she kept them all for herself. Isaac Klein, attorney for the accused, disputed the claim. He said the two had a confidential agreement, although he wouldn't specify what it was.
Ortiz filed the suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County in December, Maryland court records show.
A recent case in Iowa pitted the holder of a valid $14 million lottery ticket against the state's lottery commission. The man, New York-based attorney Crawford Shaw, claimed to represent a trust in Belize. But when pressed by Iowa for full disclosure of where he got the ticket, Shaw eventually surrendered his claim to the money. With the help of law enforcement, Iowa is still trying to figure out who the original buyer was. Surveillance video of the actual purchase may be shown to the public to gain new leads.
In the Maryland case, Ortiz told NBC in Spanish he had reason to trust a colleague with his life-changing $20 scratch-off. He asked a friend to cash a $3,000 lottery ticket a few years ago, and the friend gave him every cent, he said.