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with friends like these

Never Play the Lottery With Friends

You never know which of your friends is going to quietly scam you out of a few million dollars, especially if you live in New Jersey. For years, Americo Lopes was in charge of buying lottery tickets for himself and five construction worker buddies, but when they finally won on a Mega Millions ticket in 2009, he didn't tell anyone, instead claiming he had to quit his job to have "foot surgery." More than two years later, a judge has ruled that everyone involved should get their share, but Lopes is probably out of luck in the friends department. 

Lopes had been cut a check for $17,433,966 after taxes, and told one of the men that he had won the lottery the week after he quit his job. The Internet eventually revealed his lies, and the other five men filed a lawsuit. And these weren't just work friends, the Times reports:

The five said they had known Mr. Lopes for years and considered themselves close friends of his. Mr. Silva Sr. said that in 2008 — long before the uproar over the ticket — he helped fix up a house Mr. Lopes had bought. He said they worked on the driveway together. And the sidewalk. And the basement. Mr. Silva Sr. said, as he did in court, that he had looked on Mr. Lopes as a son.

Mr. Sousa said they were all so close that Mr. Lopes attended his daughter’s christening five years ago. He said he was still upset that Mr. Lopes testified that the six men had not been friends.

It's the sort of parable that could be taught at Bible school and end with a lightning bolt, which might actually be preferable to Lopes's life of loneliness. The money still has to be divvied up, though — how much does forgiveness cost these days anyway?

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Photo: istockphoto