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NJ Couple Claim Big Game Jackpot

April 30, 2002

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ A husband and wife claimed a $58.9 million share of the Big Game lottery jackpot Tuesday, a day after state lottery officials debunked a claim to the prize by nursing home employees in an office pool.

Jorge M. and Joanne S. Lopes, of Englishtown, held one of the three wining tickets from the $331 million prize drawn on April 16, the second-biggest lottery prize in U.S. history.

The couple bought $5 in tickets from a Hillside convenience store. They opted for a lump-sum payout, thereby reducing the prize. Taxes will cut it further to $43 million.

The other winning tickets were sold in Georgia, where 20-year-old Erika Greene claimed her share of the prize, and Illinois, where the winner hasn’t come forward.

On Monday, lottery officials dashed the hopes of a group of Newark nursing home workers who played the Big Game as a pool. The Newark Extended Care Facility workers had claimed they pooled their money to buy the winning ticket, but co-worker Angelito Marquez wouldn’t give it to the group.

Despite Marquez’s insistence the group had lost, co-workers became suspicious of his absence from work in the days after the drawing and hired a lawyer.

The New Jersey Lottery, in a statement Monday, said two of the tickets Marquez bought for the office pool were worth a dollar each.

Several workers said they were disappointed, but wished the winner well and said they held no bad feelings for Marquez.

``We never really claimed the ticket. We just wanted to know,″ said Ida Davis.

Marquez’s lawyer, Donald DiGioia, said the co-workers ``just put two and two together and got five.″

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