PERRY -- Salvador Rodriguez testified Tuesday in the civil case about the disputed ownership of a $750,000 winning lottery ticket that Eric Cervantes claimed the ticket for Jose Antonia “Tony” Cua-Toc with the promise of giving him all the proceeds.
Cua-Toc, 27, a native of Guatemala who entered the country illegally in 2000, and Cervantes, a Fort Valley business owner who claimed the winning Jingle Jumbo Bucks lottery ticket from Georgia lottery officials, are fighting in Houston County Superior Court for the remaining $460,000 lottery winnings after federal and state taxes.
Rodriguez was at the lottery office in Macon the day the ticket was claimed.
Cua-Toc, who worked as a day laborer for Cervantes, filed the lawsuit against Erick Cervantes and Sonia Cervantes, who were married at the time. Cua-Toc’s attorneys estimate the amount of winnings allegedly due Cua-Toc at a higher amount of $517,500.
Cua-Toc claims he purchased the winning ticket Nov. 17, 2010, from the OM Food Mart at 700 Feagin Mill Road in Warner Robins. But because Cua-Toc was undocumented, he alleges that Erick Cervantes claimed the winnings on Cua-Toc’s behalf but then kept the money. However, Cervantes claims he is the rightful owner of the ticket, having given Cua-Toc the money to purchase the ticket for him.
During the second day of the trial, Rodriguez, a self-employed contractor, told jurors Cua-Toc called him the morning of Nov. 18 to ask him if he’d claim the ticket for him at the lottery office.
A couple of hours later, Cua-Toc called back to say he was already at the lottery office in Macon and would meet him there.
Rodriguez, who knew Cua-Toc from the Catholic church they attended together in Fort Valley, testified that when he arrived at the lottery office, the ticket had been claimed by Cervantes.
Rodriguez told jurors Cervantes assured Cua-Toc he was “not going to steal his money” and that he would write him a check for the winnings as a donation or gift, so he would not have to pay taxes.
Rodriguez also testified Cervantes agreed to meet with a Fort Valley attorney to draw up papers to ensure the winnings went to Cua-Toc.
Donald Lizotte, a program manager at Robins Air Force Base and father of Sonia Cervantes, testified that he saw Cua-Toc at OM Food Mart when lottery officials presented the oversized symbolic winnings check to Erick Cervantes at a news conference. Lizotte told jurors that Cua-Toc was silent.
“A rational person would have taken that time to protest with all the press,” Lizotte testified.
Cua-Toc testified earlier Tuesday that he came to the OM Food Mart at the invitation of the store owner who had called him.
Through an interpreter, Cua-Toc told jurors the store owner had gotten his number the night he won the lottery ticket.
Cua-Toc testified Cervantes pulled him aside before the news conference started to tell him he was only going to give him half of the winnings, and there was nothing he could do about it because Cervantes had already claimed the ticket in his name.
“I started to cry,” Cua-Toc testified. He told jurors he was angry and asked Cervantes, “How is this possible you are doing this to me? What about friendship?”
Cua-Toc said he was dumbfounded that Cervantes had just told him he was stealing half of his money, and he did not know what to do.
“I stayed there crying, and he went on to the ceremony,” Cua-Toc told jurors.
Juan Angeles, a cousin of Erick Cervantes, testified that Cua-Toc called him on the telephone to tell him that Cervantes had stolen his lottery ticket and to tell him to give it back or Cua-Toc would kill Cervantes, his then-wife and his children.
Angeles testified Cua-Toc also told him, “It doesn’t matter if I go to jail. I have cousins that can kill.”
Angeles’ testimony also came through a court interpreter.
Cua-Toc denied that he had threatened Cervantes and his family.
Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.