A Spanish couple is now on a desperate mission to find out if they are going to have a huge Christmas bonus. They are caught in a legal debate over the status of €100,000 (US$97,990) in lottery tickets that they lost, and that were subsequently claimed by someone else.
An ONCE lottery kiosk waits for customers in Spain. A couple who purchased lottery tickets are caught in a legal battle after they lost four, which were then claimed by someone else. (Image: La Provincia)
The couple were visiting a town in southern Spain when they purchased five tickets for a lottery draw. However, sometime that evening, they lost four of them, having given the fifth to their waiter.
Not until five days later did they realize they had won and only after the waiter told them of his good fortune. That started the mission that could ultimately take months to reach a conclusion.
Hang Onto Your Tickets
All five tickets hit a prize of €25,000 (US$24,497), and the waiter was able to claim his. A little deductive reasoning helped the couple then determine that they had won a piece of the lottery draw with each ticket they purchased.
From there, they began to think about how they could collect the prize, and they only had one clue to go on. The waiter’s ticket carried a winning series number, so theirs would have to be from the four previous or later. Each would be worth the €25,000 prize.
With this data, they filed a complaint with the National Organization of the Blind of Spain (ONCE, for its Spanish acronym) headquarters and a complaint with the National Police. ONCE operates state-run lotteries alongside the State Society for State Lotteries and Bets.
This past Wednesday, ONCE officially informed the couple that someone else cashed in their winning tickets. There was no reason to believe that anything was amiss about the situation, and the ONCE agency followed protocols when it paid out the winnings.
The good news for the couple is that the winners of all lottery prize payouts are recorded. This is for tax purposes, as well as to ensure excluded gamblers aren’t buying gambling products.
ONCE and the police know who handed in the tickets, and the couple’s search is over. But, this is only half the story.
The couple has to prove that they purchased those specific tickets as the first step toward reconciliation. It’s possible to purchase ONCE lottery products with a credit card; if the couple did, they have their evidence.
Half The Battle
Proving they purchased the tickets is only the first step. The individual who claimed the prize would have to be ordered to return the money.
However, that person didn’t “steal” the tickets in the traditional sense of the word. As such, there’s no legal precedent that would mandate court intervention. Still, a judge could determine there was theft involved.
Legal sources explain that, if a judge upholds the couple’s claim, the prize claimant knows the tickets don’t belong to him or her. As such, the person is in possession of property of which he or she is not the rightful owner. In addition, that individual collected the prize knowing he or she was not the rightful ticket purchaser, which could be viewed as theft.
The convoluted case might ultimately land in court where a judge will have to make the decision. In the meantime, the couple can only wait and hope to find an agreeable courtroom.
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