AUSTIN, Texas – A 67-year-old unemployed man who lost out on a $1 million jackpot when a store clerk allegedly cashed in his winning lottery ticket and skipped town said Wednesday that he will sue the Texas Lottery Commission for the payout unless he gets his money.
Willis Willis "should not be forced to sue to collect his prize," one of his attorneys, Sean Breen, wrote in a letter to the commission. Willis and his attorneys are scheduled to meet with the lottery's general counsel on Monday.
A commission spokesman declined to comment.
A former employee of the convenience store where Willis bought his lottery tickets, Pankaj Joshi, is accused of telling Willis that a Mega Millions ticket he bought for $1 and turned out to be a $1 million winner was worth only $2. Authorities said Joshi cashed in the ticket, then disappeared, possibly back to his native Nepal, after receiving about $750,000. He is charged with claiming a lottery prize by fraud.
About half the money has been recovered from U.S. banks. Prosecutor Patricia Robertson said some of it will be given to Willis.
Willis, who has been playing the same set of numbers at the Lucky Food Store in Grand Prairie for about 10 years, said he's unemployed because of health problems and needs the money to help pay medical bills and to send his daughter to college.
"Millions of people just like Mr. Willis play the Texas lottery with the assumption that the system has a foundation of integrity," said Randy Howry, another of Willis' attorneys. "It's time for the lottery to accept responsibility and restore everyone's faith."
Willis says he still plays the lottery but at a different store.
"I need it," he said. "It wouldn't change my life. There are some things I need to take care of financially and my daughter ... but it's the same old me."