- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) A couple married for nearly 20 years claimed a $58.9 million share of the Big Game lottery jackpot yesterday, a day after 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.
"There's not too many words to say but I'm still dumbfounded by it," said Mr. Lopes, a native of Lisbon. He said he waited to come forward because he was worried about the safety of his children.
He said he will use some of the money right away to pay bills and plans to continue working. Mr. Lopes manages two Portuguese restaurants; his wife had worked as a day care teacher and made deliveries for a florist.
Mr. Lopes, 46, a regular lottery player, said he doesn't remember the day he bought the ticket, but remembers well when he discovered he had the winning ticket.
"I started shaking like I'm shaking now," he said. He put the ticket in his pocket and went to see his lawyers the next day, he said.
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.
Patricia Gomes, who works at one of the restaurants Mr. Lopes manages, said the couple deserve the prize.
"Me and my friends could work for a place that would pay us better, but we never left because he's so nice," said Miss Gomes, a waitress at the Vilamoura restaurant in Hillside.
Mrs. Lopes gave her notice last week at the Kindercare in Manalapan.
"Was she the one? It was the $58 million? Well, she deserves it. She was a great employee," said Adalet Kamil, center director of the child care center.
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 that co-worker Angelito Marquez wouldn't give it to the group.
Despite Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Marquez.
"We never really claimed the ticket. We just wanted to know," said Ida Davis.
Mr. Marquez's attorney, Donald DiGioia, said the co-workers "just put two and two together and got five."

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