A Georgia man who was jailed for threatening his boss over a disputed $750,000 lottery ticket faces deportation, with authorities saying he is in the U.S. illegally.
Police say Jose Antonio Cua-Toc threatened his boss, Erick Cervantes, and his wife, calling them repeatedly and saying he would "kill each of them and their children if they did not give him some of the lottery winnings," according to local newspaper The Sun News.
Cua-Toc's attorney denied the allegations Wednesday on MSNBC-TV.
"Mr. Cervantes has 750,000 reasons to say these things. They haven't been proven," Julio Moreno said.
Cua-Toc, 25, says he is the one who bought the winning lottery ticket and that Cervantes, 31, cashed the ticket on his behalf but failed to give him the winnings. Unsure whether his immigration status would affect his chance to cash in, Cua-Toc had held off on turning in the ticket himself.
"Current immigration laws in the state of Georgia and in the U.S. made him afraid to go in by himself. He had a friend that was going to be trusted to go with him, but unfortunately he couldn't make it in time," Moreno told MSNBC. "Before he was able to make it, the employer showed up. He was able to cash that ticket."
To cash a lottery ticket, a winner must show ID and provide a signature. Lottery officials say they don't verify immigration status.
But Cua-Toc didn't know that, his attorney said.
"Had he known, he could have probably gone by himself to cash it, but he didn't," Moreno said.
Three months after his arrest, Cua-Toc filed a civil lawsuit against his boss to recoup the lottery proceeds.
In a surveillance video played during a hearing in March, Cua-Toc is seen in OM Food Mart on Nov. 17, 2010, buying chips, beer, a phone and lottery tickets, The Sun News reported.
The tape shows him returning to the store later that evening and showing employees the ticket. He can be seen smiling excitedly and raising his hands in the air.
"There's surveillance evidence," Moreno told MSNBC. "He went in; you see him celebrating when he comes in a hour later with his girlfriend. There were three witnesses."
Cua-Toc reportedly testified in the hearing that Cervantes encouraged him to go to the lottery office but then cashed the ticket himself, saying he would give him all the winnings.
But Cervantes' lawyer, Kelly Burke, said the two men had planned to split the money evenly.
In a statement, Burke said, "Mr. Cua-Toc was generously rewarded for his role in picking out the ticket, but that is all he is going to get."
Cua-Toc's attorney did not provide any details on how the money was split.
The winnings are currently frozen, and a Georgia judge will decide who the rightful owner is.
Meantime, a judge has ordered Cua-Toc to leave the U.S. voluntarily by September 6. If he does not comply, he will be deported and not allowed to return for 10 years, local news channel WMAZ said.
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