California Lottery stands behind $2 billion Powerball winner despite claim ticket was stolen

The California Lottery insists that Edwin Castro is the rightful winner of the record breaking $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot, despite a lawsuit filed by a man who claims the winning ticket was stolen from him.

Castro became the subject of overnight fame when he was announced as the Powerball winner on Feb.14. He won the largest prize in U.S. lottery history. Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, where the winning ticket was sold, also basked in glory.

However, Pasadena resident Jose Rivera, claims that he purchased the ticket from Joe’s Service Center on or around Nov. 7, 2022, and that it was stolen from him by a man he knows only as “Reggie.”

Rivera filed a lawsuit against Castro, Reggie and the California Lottery on Feb. 22 in Los Angeles County Superior Court. asking the court to declare him as the rightful owner of the lottery ticket and the prize money. Rivera alleges that he tried to get the ticket back from Reggie after the winning number was announced on Nov. 8, 2022, but that Reggie refused to do so and tried to blackmail Rivera into splitting the winnings by threatening to destroy the ticket.

The California Lottery says this is not true and released the following statement in response to the allegations:

“When it comes to the vetting process for big winner, California Lottery has the utmost confidence in its process for doing so. California Lottery remains confident that Edwin Castro is the rightful winner of the $2.04 billion prize stemming from the Powerball drawing in November of 2022.”

A customer purchases lottery scratcher tickets from Joe Chahayed at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Carolyn Becker, deputy director of communications for the Lottery, told the Pasadena Star-News that the Lottery carries out an extensive investigation to verify winners. This includes having the claimant corroborate facts about how the ticket was purchased, verifying the physical ticket and in some cases reviewing surveillance footage of the store where the winning ticket was purchased.

“We take this (vetting) process very seriously and sometimes it can take weeks or even months,” she said. “That process is incredibly important to the California Lottery, because it ensures the integrity of a winner.”

Becker also said it’s common for people to submit false claims or forged tickets.

“Sadly, we do get bad actors who try to claim winnings that are not theirs,” she said.

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The California Lottery does not launch independent investigations into allegations of theft. This responsibility lies with local law enforcement.

City of Pasadena Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian said Rivera reported the alleged theft to the Pasadena Police Department on Feb. 15. Rivera had no evidence of purchasing the ticket and ultimately no theft report was written up, she added.

Castro was announced as the winner on Feb. 14 and elected to receive the lump payout of $997.6 million.

According to the lawsuit, Rivera filed his own winning claim form with the lottery on Feb. 17 and did not do so any sooner because of the alleged threat of Reggie destroying the ticket.

Rivera believes he is the rightful winner and entitled to choose between the $997.6 lump payout or the 30 annual payments. His legal representation has submitted a Public Records Act Request to the California Lottery seeking to access a video depicting the purchase of the winning ticket.

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