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California Lottery says $2 billion Powerball winner is legitimate, amid claim ticket was stolen

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(NEW YORK) — The California Lottery is maintaining it verified the rightful winner of the record-breaking $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot, after a man claimed he had the winning ticket before it was stolen from him.

In a lawsuit filed on Feb. 22 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Jose Rivera claimed he purchased the winning ticket at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena the day before the drawing, but it was stolen by someone named “Reggie” who is a defendant in the suit, on the same day.

State officials pushed back against Rivera’s claim that he is the lottery winner, reiterating that Edwin Castro is the proper winner, as it announced on Feb. 14.

“When it comes to the vetting process for big winners, California Lottery has the utmost confidence in its process for doing so,” Carolyn Becker, a spokesperson for the California Lottery, told ABC News in a statement. “California Lottery remains confident that Edwin Castro is the rightful winner of the $2.04 billion prize stemming from the Powerball drawing in November of 2022.”

Rivera reportedly asked Reggie to return the ticket to him after the winning numbers were announced, but he refused, claiming that Reggie was trying to blackmail him into splitting the jackpot 50/50, according to the lawsuit.

Rivera said he does not know the real name of Reggie, which is a fictitious name, according to the lawsuit.

“The true names … are unknown to plaintiff at this time and, therefore, plaintiff sues said defendants by said fictitious names, and when the true names and capacities of said defendant are ascertained, plaintiff will amend this complaint accordingly,” the suit said.

The California Lottery announced Castro won $2.04 billion after he bought the winning ticket at Joe’s Service Center ahead of the Nov. 8 drawing.

According to the complaint, Rivera submitted a claim to the California Lottery after learning that Castro was the winner, saying that his ticket was stolen and that his win needed to be investigated by authorities and the California Lottery.

The California Lottery told ABC News in a statement that it isn’t “authorized to investigate criminal activity among its players” and that investigations are left up by local law enforcement officials.

It added, “should a local law enforcement agency investigate such allegations, Lottery’s only role is to assist in the matter by answering questions and/or providing evidence as allowed under the law.”

In a Feb. 17 letter to the California Lottery, Rivera requested to view the video of the winning ticket being purchased.

“Rivera is willing to fully cooperate with your investigation, including meeting with your investigators to give a detailed statement concerning the purchase and theft of the ticket, along with threats of blackmail,” the letter said, according to the lawsuit. “We request an opportunity to view the video depicting the date and time of the purchase of the winning lottery ticket at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, California, where Mr. Rivera purchased the ticket on November 7, 2022. We also look forward to viewing any video that purports to depict Edwin Castro purchasing the winning ticket.”

Rivera’s lawyers did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Castro did not appear publicly when claiming the ticket, choosing to remain private, but said in a statement that he was “shocked and ecstatic to have won” and was happy that his win would be financially beneficial for the state’s public education system, according to the California Lottery.

Castro took the cash value of his winnings, totaling $997.6 million, state officials said in a press release.

Rivera’s lawsuit names California, the state’s lottery commission, Castro and Reggie as defendants.

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