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Jury: Mega Millions winner must share with co-workers

Frances Micklow / The Star-Ledger

A jury ruled unanimously that Americo Lopes must pay his coworkers $20 million from his $24 million lottery winnings in Elizabeth, N.J., on Tuesday.

A jury has ruled that a New Jersey man will have to share a portion of his jackpot winnings from a 2009 lottery ticket with his former co-workers: $20 million to be exact.

Former construction worker Americo Lopes, 52, won $38.5 million ($24 million after taxes) on Nov. 10, 2009. He claimed to his colleagues that he bought 12 tickets, including the jackpot winner, for himself, as a side bet in addition to the lottery pool tickets he purchased for the group. But his co-workers said he used their money to hit the winning numbers.

On Wednesday, a Union County, N.J., jury sided with the plaintiffs, awarding the five other men in his pool about $4 million each, reported NJ.com.

"They robbed me," Lopes said in Portuguese outside the courthouse, reported NJ.com.

Read more about the lottery winners on NJ.com

The men all worked with Lopes at Berto Construction Inc. in Elizabeth, N.J. when they began playing the lottery together in 2007, according to NJ.com.

Lopes hid the news at the time that one of their tickets ended up being one of two winners of a $77 million total Mega Millions jackpot, reported The New York Post. His lawyer presented copious notes to the courtroom in an attempt to prove that the numbers drawn for the winning ticket were his own, not a combination the group had come up with.

But the jury ruled unanimously in favor of the plainiffs, said NJ.com. After the verdict, Lopes' ex-colleagues hugged each other.

"I have a lot to do," Carlos Fernandez, one of the five plaintiffs, said, according to NJ.com. "My granddaughter was born yesterday. I have to buy her a present she'll remember."

Frances Micklow / The Star-Ledger

Plaintiffs Carlos Fernandes, right, Candido Silva Jr. shake hands after the jury ruled unanimously that Americo Lopes must pay them, his coworkers, $20 million from his $24 million lottery winnings in Elizabeth, NJ, on March 14.

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