By Richard Jordan, NBCWashington.com
An undocumented immigrant in Maryland is going public in an effort to claim a lottery prize he says a trusted co-worker stole.
Ramon Ortiz, an immigrant from Guatemala who lives in Hyattsville, Md., said two years ago he purchased a $20 Maryland scratch off lottery ticket and won a $1 million jackpot.
Ortiz, who doesn’t have a Social Security number, couldn’t claim the prize himself. So he asked a legal, English-speaking colleague to claim the $450,000 payout from the Maryland Lottery Commission, he said
“I never thought anything bad would happen,” Ortiz told NBCWashington.com.
Ortiz, who works as a roofer, said the trusted co-worker claimed the prize, but kept it for herself. He declined to say which company he works for because he fears causing problems for them for hiring an undocumented worker. Ortiz has filed a lawsuit against his colleague, alleging fraud.
“The defendant walked away with the check and the money,” Ortiz’s attorney, Milt Theologou, told NBCWashington.com. “All my client got was a T-shirt and a hat.”
But the co-worker’s attorney insists his client did not take anyone’s money.
“There was a confidential agreement between the two,” defense attorney Isaac Klein said. “He is making certain allegations that we are emphatically and categorically denying, and we will try our case in court.”
“No, I didn’t have an agreement with her,” Ortiz said. “I called her and I asked, ‘Can you do me a favor?’ She said, ‘Ok.’ I said, ‘Since I know I can’t speak English, I don’t have my papers, I don’t have anything, that’s why I ask.’ She said, ‘That’s fine.’”
Ortiz said his co-worker was supposed to turn over the full jackpot to him after she claimed the prize. The co-worker, on the other hand, insists the terms of the agreement were different but wouldn’t disclose the specifics of their arrangement. She filed a motion to dismiss the case and a judge denied that request.
Meanwhile, Ortiz and the co-worker he says betrayed him still work together and see each other regularly.
“I don’t talk to her and she doesn’t talk to me,” Ortiz said. “She just looks at me, and I’m there, quietly.”
This isn’t the first time Ortiz has trusted someone with so much money on the line. A couple of years ago, he won $3,000 in the lottery and asked a different friend to cash in the prize. He said that time everything went as planned.