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Lawsuit Claims Friend Failed to Inform Ticket Buyer of Lottery Win

August 16, 1986|JOHN SPANO | Times Staff Writer

It was the first time he had bought a lottery ticket, his lawyer says.

It was an experience Jesus Cervantes Varajas is not likely to forget.

On July 26, according to a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court, Varajas, a construction laborer, bought two state lottery tickets at a Santa Ana liquor store. He scratched off one and handed the other to his friend, Fausto Lopez.

Friday, Varajas won a temporary restraining order from Superior Court Commissioner Eleanor Palk blocking state lottery officials from paying Lopez (who no longer calls Varajas his friend) the prize indicated on the second ticket (which was $100,00).

Lopez, described as a Mexican national, was not present when the order was granted.

Varajas is illiterate and speaks only Spanish, according to his lawyer, Stephen C. Stewart. Lopez, a dishwasher, can read and speak English and Spanish, according to the lawsuit.

In a sworn statement, Varajas said he "did not know how to tell if a ticket won or lost."

"We stood there at the counter and scratched them off," he said in the written statement. "I scratched one and Fausto scratched one. I asked him about them, and he told me that the one I had scratched off was a losing ticket.

"I asked him about the one he had scratched off, but he didn't answer me."

It wasn't until Lopez showed the ticket to the clerk and she hugged him that Varajas began to figure out what was happening, according to his statement.

That day, according to the lawsuit, Lopez offered Varajas $5,000 but failed to say how much the ticket was worth.

One day before the suit was filed, Lopez offered Varajas $10,000 "to settle the thing," according to the lawsuit.

Stewart said Varajas is married and has several children.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Mel Segal, representing lottery officials, told the court commissioner the winning ticket had not been cashed as of Thursday evening.

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