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Winner of historic $2B Powerball sued by man who claims ticket was stolen from him

Jose Rivera claims that he purchased last year’s record-setting Powerball ticket in California, but it was stolen from him and Edwin Castro ended up cashing in on the winnings.
alifornia Lottery Director Alva Johnson announces that Edwin Castro won the $2.04 billion PowerBall jackpot in Sacramento, Calif.
California Lottery Director Alva Johnson announces that Edwin Castro won the $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot in Sacramento, Calif., on Feb. 14. Adam Beam / AP file

The winner of California's $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot last year is being sued by a man who claims the ticket was stolen from him before the winning numbers were drawn.

Edwin Castro was identified as the winner of the record-setting prize in February. At the time, he said he was “shocked and ecstatic” and chose to accept the jackpot in a lump sum payment of $997.6 million. 

The same month he was identified, a man named Jose Rivera filed a civil complaint in Alhambra Superior Court claiming the jackpot should be his. 

The suit was filed against Castro, the California State Lottery Commission, the state of California and a man named Urachi F. Romero, whom Rivera accused of taking his ticket. 

Rivera purchased the lottery ticket for the $2.04 billion Powerball on Nov. 7 at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, California, one day before the draw, according to the complaint.

Rivera alleges Romero stole the ticket that same day. The complaint did not detail how the alleged theft happen.

After the ticket was allegedly stolen, Rivera made “numerous requests and demands to return it” but Romero refused, according to the complaint. 

On Nov. 8, the winning numbers were drawn and Rivera made renewed requests for Romero to return the ticket. Romero allegedly responded by saying “the ticket was a loser or if I find the ticket we can split the winnings 50/50,” the complaint said.

Rivera reported the alleged theft to California Lottery and law enforcement, according to court documents.

On Feb. 14, the California State Lottery Commission and the state of California announced Castro was the winner of the Powerball. Lottery officials said they followed a vetting process to assure the ticket and claim were legitimate.

Rivera presented a claim form to California Lottery in Santa Fe Springs three days later, claiming his ticket was stolen. 

“Up until the announcement on February 14, 2023, Mr. Rivera had been threatened that his winning ticket would be destroyed if he did not agree to split the winnings,” a letter from Rivera's counsel said. 

The complaint said Rivera requested that California Lottery preserve all footage depicting the winning ticket being purchased at Joe’s Service Center. 

Rivera says he’s entitled to the jackpot, claiming he suffered emotional damages, trespass to chattel (meaning use of property without an owner’s permission) and intentional interference with prospective economic relations in the alleged ordeal. 

California Lottery said it does not comment on pending litigation but expressed "utmost confidence" in the organization's vetting process for winners.

"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," said Carolyn Becker, state lottery deputy director and spokesperson.

A summons was served April 25 at a sprawling $25.5 million Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, home that was sold in March, according to online records. 

But the person at the home allegedly told process servers they were “serving the wrong Edwin Castro,” according to a May 17 filing. 

On Thursday, a motion to quash service of summons was filed by an attorney for Castro. It said that the summons was issued to Edwin H. Castro — the father of the actual Powerball winner.

A declaration attached to the motion by Castro said he has never personally been issued a summons. He acknowledged that the L.A. home his father was served at was his. He did not address the claims regarding the ticket in his filing.

A hearing is set for July 19 on that motion. 

NBC News has reached out to attorneys for Rivera and Castro for comment. Romero, who did not file a response in the court docket, could not be reached Friday.