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New Jersey Winners of Big Game Lottery Come Forward

Aired April 30, 2002 - 11:01   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Big Game: major confusion. The real winner who is in New Jersey at the Big Game lottery coming forward at this hour. The April 16th jackpot, $331 million split three ways, is the second-richest in U.S. history. There was a group of worker who claim they won the prize. They bickered over it in front of television cameras. They walked away with just $2.

CNN's Maria Hinojosa is in Trenton this morning, waiting for the winner.

I'm hearing it's a couple, two people, central New Jersey perhaps.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, well, you know, Daryn, sometimes you win $2. Sometimes you win, let's see, the exact total $58,938,742, and we do know that it's Jorge, or George, and Joanne Lopes. They are from Englishtown, New Jersey, which is central New Jersey. They bought their tickets at a mini mart in Hillside, New Jersey and, yes, we are expecting any moment now for them to come here and say it really was us who won.

Of course the question that we all want to know is, how come you didn't tell us you won this last week, where instead the whole country watched while people, coworkers bickered thinking that maybe they were going to finally have a chance to become millionaires. It was kind of ugly, a sense of aren't we supposed to get along and taking care of each other, and now these coworkers are slamming each other and hiring lawyers.

The New Jersey State lottery officials are going to be presenting to us here. We are all set. You can tell, hey, hey, they've got the balloons up. I mean, everybody wants to know who are these people? What do they do? Where do they work? At this point, we don't know anything.

But at any moment now, the news conference is going to start, and we are going to take it live.

Back to you, Daryn.

KAGAN: One little correction there, Maria. It will be where did they work, not where do they work. I bet they won't be working there anymore.

HINOJOSA: Although, you know, hey, some people win $58 million and still they go to work, you never know, you never know.

KAGAN: I know. However you want to do it.

HINOJOSA: A lot of people I know in New Jersey and the New York area, there has been a lot of publicity on the story, but not so much in the rest of the country. So if you could briefly explain to us how this big brouhaha happened with this group of cowokers, who thought that one of their coworkers was kind of holding out on them.

KAGAN: Right, well, what happened was that they all worked the late night shift at a nursing home. They all bought pool ticket for the lottery, and after the lottery was drawn, Angelito (ph) didn't show up for three days in a row, and they knew that the winning ticket had been bought in the place where he brought the ticket, but all of a sudden, he wasn't showing up to work. The coworkers said, he is going to take the money and run, and that's when they started hiring new lawyers. That's when it started getting ugly.

But at this point, yes, they are losers, and we are about to find out apparently any minute now. We are standing by. As you can tell, the cameras perched to find out who is going to win these $58.9 million.

KAGAN: You mentioned the couple by the last name of Lopes, Jorge or George and Joanne Lopes from Englishtown, New Jersey. We also know one of the winning tickets as from here in Georgia. We met that young woman last week or the week before, Erika Greene, but there's still that third ticket out there. I think it was purchased in Illinois, and where are those people?

HINOJOSA: That's the thing that everybody wants to know, is if you won, and you're looking at those numbers, how come you're not making that phone call or at least calling your family and saying, I won, I won, and then maybe your family is going to leak it to the press.

At this point, we will now know two of the winners, or perhaps three, because Jorge and Joanne Lopes are a couple, but we still don't know who the third winner is in Illinois. I'm sure that there will be just as much brouhaha.

KAGAN: Check it out. I think it's happening over your left shoulder.

HINOJOSA: They look like that -- sure, they could be millionaires, what the heck. Coming forward with lottery officials. As these things usually work, I bet we will hear from lottery officials first, and then a chance to learn what these people hope to do with their million and why, as you were saying, why they took so long to come forward. Tell those guys in front to get out of the way.

All right, let's go ahead and listen in.

Wells, looks like right now, it's a photo-opportunity.

Maria, can you even see past all those guys that are in front there trying to take the photographs? I don't -- can you hear me, Maria?

All right, well, I will just take over here. Here is what we know: We know that this is a couple from central New Jersey. There from Englishtown, New Jersey.

You know what, I think there is a bit of a problem with the audio, that's what the problem is, because somebody is talking, but we're not hearing anybody. They're from Englishtown, New Jersey Jorge and Joanne Lopes. The Big Game, once again, it was the huge jackpot, one of the largest jackpots ever. Three winning tickets, one from here in Georgia, one from New Jersey, and one from Illinois. These are the latest people to come forward. They are going to win $58 million as their share of the lottery.

And of course as Maria was explaining to us earlier, the problem was that there was a group of workers who work overnight at a nursing home in New Jersey, and they thought that one of their coworkers was holding out on them, and was holding the winning ticket, because after the prize was announced, after the numbers were announced, he didn't show up for work for three days, and they do know that the ticket where this was bought at the same place as where the one man who was missing from work, he bought his ticket as well.

So that's where that confusion comes from. Fascinating.

Well, I hope we can fix these audio, because we really want to hear from the people. Any help in there, control room. All right.

I think I hear some sound. No. Yes, you know what, we will spend some money ourselves, make some money, work on this sound, and we'll be back in just a second.


JORGE LOPES, BIG GAME WINNER: And there is not too many words to say, but I'm still dumbfound about it. That's it.

If you have any questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please one at a time.

JORGE LOPES: One at a time, please.

The immediate plans is to pay my bills.

QUESTION: What did you think when this group came forward and tried to claim it for themselves?

JORGE LOPES: I also want to say thanks to the group, because at the end they were very gracious, and I thank them for their blessings. What thought I ought it would be sad (ph), and it wasn't hard for us to keep quiet and just let things take the course. So, you know, I feel very bad for them, you know.

QUESTION: You wouldn't pick up the phone and call and say...

JORGE LOPES: Probably I will.

I'm sorry?

We'll see about that. Why did you wait so long to come forward? What have you been doing all this time.

JORGE LOPES: Well, what I've been doing all this time is that my primary concern has been the safety of my children, and that's been from the beginning the paramount reason I that stayed underground, if you want to put it that way.

QUESTION: How many children do you have?

JORGE LOPES: Lots of it.


JORGE LOPES: Like lotsi, lots of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't want to answer questions about his children.

QUESTION: What do you do for a living?

JORGE LOPES: Well, I'm a bar manager.

Villa Moira (ph) is in Hillside (ph) on 400 Block Street (ph). Let me plug it in. And another one is on Union on Stuyverson (ph) Avenue. It's called Antonio (ph), both Portuguese restaurants.

QUESTION: Tell us about the day you bought the ticket, what went through your mind.

JORGE LOPES: The day I bought the ticket, I don't remember much of it. The day I cashed the ticket, yes, that I remember.

Well, first I couldn't believe -- first I couldn't understand what they were saying anyway, and I had my glasses on, so it took me a while to try to realize and push the light and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when they said you're the winner. So I started shaking like I'm shaking now.

QUESTION: How did you select the numbers?

JORGE LOPES: I didn't. The machine did it.

QUESTION: What did you do with your ticket from the time that you knew you won until now?

JORGE LOPES: Well, I put in my pocket. And next I went to see one of my lawyers, and they put in a box, safety box.

QUESTION: How did you wife react?

JORGE LOPES: Well, she was very in shock.

JOANNE LOPES, BIG GAME WINNER: I felt sick, like I was going to be sick.

Have I done any shopping?

Not really.

QUESTION: What to you want to buy? You must have a list?

JOANNE LOPES: A few things.

I really don't know.

QUESTION: What are you going to buy your children?

JOANNE LOPES: Clothes, a lot of clothes.

QUESTION: How long have you all been married?

JOANNE LOPES: Twenty years, August 1st.

QUESTION: Are those your kids, or your lawyers?

JORGE LOPES: Which ones?

JOANNE LOPES: Our friends, they're all our friends.

QUESTION: How is this going to changer your life?

JORGE LOPES: Well, I guess the reason -- I mean, the biggest concern, as I said before, is the privacy of my family and the safety of my children, and that's what will change my life mostly. I will spend the time with them that I never spent before. I had no chance to spend before. And mostly I will be like a watchdog over my children, because that's the ones that I think will be the easy targets.

QUESTION: Were you a regular lottery player?


QUESTION: Did you ever participate in pools?

JORGE LOPES: No. Very rarely.

QUESTION: Have you ever won anything before?

JORGE LOPES: I'm not from Portugal. I was born in Lisbon.

QUESTION: Have you ever won anything before in the lottery?

JORGE LOPES: Not really. I'm a Lotsi (ph) player. I like to play Lotsi, because I always win something. There's more chances, I guess.

QUESTION: How about a new house, a new car, a vacation? What will you do with your money?

JORGE LOPES: Right now, they're trying to not shake so much, and so that's about it.


Well, as a matter of fact I went to the gas station to get some gas, as I usually do. I told the guy, give me a winner, and he always gives me -- and I overheard that someone -- some lady had won in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- so I had no idea, you know, that I was a winner. It passed through, said nothing, got nothing, got nothing, and then it says five claim form. Pass it again. It came through again. I thought that I won like $600 or something. It took me a long while to realize what he was trying to tell me, that I was the big winner.

QUESTION: Did you buy the ticket when getting gas (ph)?

JORGE LOPES: I don't remember.

QUESTION: How many did you buy?

JORGE LOPES: I bought five.

QUESTION: How old are you?

JORGE LOPES: I beg your pardon?

QUESTION: I'll tell you once, I was born June 14, 1955.

JOANNE LOPES: Do I have to say that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you don't have to answer that.

QUESTION: Will you go back to work tomorrow? What are your plans now?

JORGE LOPES: I've been to work just about every day.

QUESTION: Champagne on the house tonight?

JORGE LOPES: Yes, probably.


I'm sorry?

Probably. But on the other hands, we will visit millionaire's restaurants anyway, so.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) win that kind of money would never go back to work a day in their life.

JORGE LOPES: You got to go to work. You got to do something. You can't just sit around and go fishing, as much as you life fish.

I'm sorry, no. I guess it's something probably going to have to mingle with the crowd.

QUESTION: Are you going to continue playing the lottery? JORGE LOPES: Absolutely.


JORGE LOPES: Because I think it's just fun. I mean, I think everybody plays to win, but I think people play to have a -- just to have fun.

Not today.

Probably, yes.


JOANNE LOPES: No, I'm going to help him out after, but two jobs I have.

QUESTION: What do you do?

JOANNE LOPES: A teacher at Kindercare, from (ph) toddlers to 2- year-olds, and Hours of Flowers, a flower of shop I was delivery person.

QUESTION: Did you already quit?

JOANNE LOPES: I didn't quit the delivery. They still want me to come in.

JORGE LOPES: You talking to me? Listen, when you know you have the ticket that you have absolutely no connection with these people, right away, I felt that someone -- you know was trying to string these people along. I don't know why or how they did it. So you just try to -- I told my wife that things take their course, because the truth will come out, and it's just as easy as that.

QUESTION: Were you jumping up and down?

JORGE LOPES: No, I was not. I'm still like this. I still haven't changed my position.

It's a company.

PAT DUNIKIN (ph): Hi, I'm Pat Dunikin, from Gibbons-Daldeo (ph). Lucky break, LLC is an operating company that was formed prior to any of the controversy developing...

KAGAN: All right, it sounds like here comes the lawyers. That would be a good time for us to get out, I think. Let's recap what we learned about the winners holding this ticket. They are Jorge and Joanne Lopes. They are from Englishtown, New Jersey. They say they waited so long to come forward, even though they knew they won, because they were concerned about the safety of their children. He is a bar manager at a string of Portuguese restaurants, and she works at as day care and a flower shop. He just bought $5 of tickets, of Quick Pics when he went and bought some gasoline. She says she wants some clothes, but other than that, they haven't made big plans to spend the money. And he says he plans to continue working, and continue playing the lottery, because as you heard Mr. Lopes say, you just can't sit around and go fishing everyday.

Charming to get to meet them. Good luck for them with all of their millions.




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