Milpitas Liquor Store Owner Sues Lottery Winner

A 53-year-old woman who won $1 million from the lottery has been slapped with a lawsuit by the Northern California liquor store owner who sold her the winning Emerald 10 scratch-off ticket.

Laxmi Bhardwaj, owner of USA Liquors in Milpitas, claims Eva Reyes promised to evenly split the prize — which is $350,000 each after taxes — because he fronted her the money to buy the tickets, according to court documents.

Bhardwaj declined to be interviewed for this story. Court documents show Bhardwaj has a note signed by Reyes guaranteeing him half of the prize. But Reyes claims she agreed to only give him a fraction of the money as a sign of good will, and maybe even good luck for more wins in the future.

"Only $50,000. Yes. With my signature. Nothing else. No words. No nothing," Reyes said. "Only a piece of paper like this, a small one. That's it."

Reyes, a San Jose resident, in December won $1,000 for a scratch-off ticket at the same store. She said she gave the owner $100 — court documents said the amount was $500.

"He's trying to shatter her little piece of the American dream," said Nelson McElmurry, Reyes' attorney.

McElmurry said $50,000 is noted clearly across the middle of the note.

"Then after it appears, I don't know, it appears somebody may have tried to squeeze in 'three hundred thousand' in hindsight," McElmurry said.

Reyes said she just wants this nightmare over so she can take her family on a dream vacation in Hawaii.

"Before I wanted to give the $50,000, but later I say forget it," she said. "Why do I have to give it? I win the money."

McElmurry said Reyes has the legal right to change her mind since the money is a gift.

Meanwhile, the disputed $350,000 is in an escrow account until the lawsuit is settled.

The first court date for the case is scheduled for March 13.

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