After more than a year and a contentious trial, a New Jersey jury has unanimously determined that hard-hat worker Americo Lopes cheated five co-workers out their fair shares of $38.5 million in lottery winnings. Each was awarded a $4 million share. The evidence presented in the trial was mostly circumstantial, and the case came down to what the jury believed, whom they trusted. Go figure: they chose not to believe the man who organized a lottery pool with his co-workers, collected their money and bought New Jersey lottery tickets with it routinely, and then, when he found himself with a winning ticket in the Mega-Millions game…
- Didn’t tell any of the group.
- Claimed he was going on leave to have surgery,
- Quietly quit without returning,
- Claimed that the winning ticket was bought with his personal funds, not the pool’s,
- Argued that none of the men were friends of his and
- Reportedly said at one point, “With all that money, I can buy new friends.”
Gee, who wouldn’t believe such a terrific guy?
Actually, he may have been telling the truth about the ticket: he was able to show that one line of numbers on the winning ticket, though not the line that won the prize, was the exact same sequence he had always played in his non-pool lottery efforts over the years. The jury, however, seems to have decided that his lack of ethics, honesty, loyalty and generosity was so despicable that it superseded the technicalities. His hiding the fact of his winning ticket made him look guilty, though he may have simply known that that his pool would claim his money whether the ticket was personal or not. His lies about surgery made his credibility as a witness dubious. His refusal to acknowledge his five long-time co-workers as friends, one of whom had helped Lopes do repair work on his home, and another of whom had invited Lopes to the Christening of his daughter, made him look like a traitor and a scoundrel. And the entire controversy had the stench of greed.
No matter how the winning ticket was purchased, the fair and ethical conduct would have been to treat it as a win for the pool. That would have avoided hurt feelings and anger, retained friendships and kept a lot of money out of the hands of lawyers. (my guess is that they got at least $6 million in fees).
Lopes could have taken his 1/6 share of the jackpot, become wealthy, kept his friends and reputation, and lived happily ever after. Now he’s known statewide as a greedy cheat, a rotten friend, and an untrustworthy jerk…and he has less money than he would have had if he had acted based on ethics rather than selfishness.
Doing the right thing often means going beyond legal obligations.
Americo Lopes just learned that ethics lesson the hard way.
6 thoughts on “Ethics Lessons of the Great Lotto Betrayal”
I don’t think he should have had to share the money if it was a ticket bought with funds outside the pool. I agree he doesn’t seem to be trustworthy based on the above though. Bigger question is…. why join a lottery pool that does not provide you with ticket copies or lists of numbers purchased before the draws? Seems like they didn’t really have their thinking caps on before they plopped their cash down.
Yes, any lottery pool I’ve seen the organiser would provide photocopies of the ticket before the draw so everyone could be sure which ticket was the pool ticket.
Which is beside the point. Sure, systems and validation eliminate the need for trust to some extent. That doesn’t justify untrustworthy behavior when you don’t have them.
These are construction workers, not lawyers, and the pool was based on trust and friendship, not contracts and verification. No reason why that shouldn’t work—if those involved are ethical.
All of the construction workers I know are smarter than this.
Who wants to bet that, inside of 5 years, he’s broke? That happens often enough with even ethical people who never learned how to manage money. Watch this guy blow it all on high living and then try to count the friends his money has bought when he needs a place to crash!