Jun 26, 2013, 11:46 am
Sometimes, a stack of lottery cash is thicker than blood.
And two Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, brothers learned that the hard way.
A winning lottery ticket has pitted Ira Sharp, and his half-brother, Charles Thomas Meehan, against each other in Cumberland County Court, fracturing a close familial kinship that may never exist again.
The saga began at Johnny Joe's Sports Bar & Grill in Hampden Township in late May, when Sharp and Meehan were knocking back a few drinks, and scratching off $20 "Hot Million" instant lottery tickets between chugs.
Before long, Meehan folded, deciding he had gambled away enough money that night.
But Sharp felt lucky.
So he slapped a $20 spot in front of Meehan, and according to court records, said "Let's play one more ticket; if we win, we'll split the money."
After purchasing the ticket from a vending machine in the bar at 5327 E. Trindle Road, Meehan scratched it, and suddenly asked Sharp to join him in the restroom.
The two stood and gazed at the ticket, soon coming to grips with the fact that they had a $1 million winner in their hands.
Drunk with excitement, they composed themselves, went back to the bar, finished their drinks without a word about their luck, and headed to Meehan's house on Portland Street to set up a game plan, court records state.
The night the two were out together isn't exactly clear, as court records suggest they were in the bar drinking on, or about May 21.
While at Meehan's house, they decided to meet there again early the next morning.
They would take the ticket and cash it in together at the Pennsylvania Lottery Commission office in Lower Swatara Township, splitting the winnings straight down the middle, according to court documents.
So the two lucky men parted ways for the night, dreaming of fortunes ahead.
The next day
When Sharp woke up, he rang his brother to tell him he was on his way.
But, there was no answer.
He called again — same thing.
Confused, Sharp went over to his brother's, only to find he wasn't there.
Hours went by with no word, and a worried Sharp called again that afternoon, and once again, with no luck. But then, a few minutes later, his phone rang.
It was Meehan.
His brother explained that he had gone to the Lottery Commission alone with the ticket, only to be told that the two didn't have the golden ticket they had hoped for after all, according to court papers.
Baffled, Sharp told his brother to produce the ticket — but he couldn't.
Meehan told Sharp he was just so disappointed by the bad news, that he tossed the ticket on the floor at the Lottery Commission offices.
If Sharp wasn't suspicious the day after he thought he was going to receive $500,000, soon, he would be.
After a few days passed following the big letdown, Sharp received word that the Lottery Commission had contacted the owner of Johnny Joe's, telling him a $1 million "Hot Million" instant lottery ticket had been sold at his bar, court records state.
That's when attorneys got involved, because an outraged Sharp lawyered up.
And on June 19, he sued Meehan for breach of contract, and filed for a court injunction to keep him from spending the prize money.
Sharp's lawyer, R. Mark Thomas, filed for the injunction to prevent Meehan from spending the winnings before a trial takes place. Since he only recently filed the complaint, it could take nine months, at the earliest, before it goes to trial, Thomas said.
Sharp has asked for $500,000 of the pot, plus court costs and attorney fees.
The same day Thomas asked for the injunction, Judge Christylee L. Peck granted it, ordering the Lottery Commission, if it had yet to deliver the money to Meehan, to withhold the winnings until she has issued a ruling on the matter.
Or, if Meehan had received the cash, she restricted him from spending any of it, and ordered him to turn it into the court for safekeeping until she decides whether to keep or lift the injunction.
However, the next day, Peck was forced to amend the order, because Cumberland County Court does not hold jurisdiction over a commonwealth agency.
But, since the Lottery Commission had already issued the prize to Meehan, it really didn't matter, Sharp said, adding that the moratorium on his spending still stands.
Peck held a preliminary hearing on whether or not the injunction should still stand on Monday. But she did not issue an order, and as of early Tuesday evening, it stood.
Meehan could not immediately be reached for comment, and it was unclear whether he had hired an attorney since his brother sued him last week.
Thomas said he has advised Sharp to not discuss the case until a trial ruling has been issued.
Thomas said he realizes that on the face of it, he and Sharp "have a very high burden. We have to produce convincing evidence showing that he deserves some of that money."
To obtain evidence, Thomas hopes to review video footage from the bar that evening to see if, perhaps, there is proof of Sharp sliding a $20 in front of Meehan.
He also wants to find out whether anyone overheard any discussion between the two brothers.
Meehan took the $20 from Sharp, put it in the machine and scratched it, Thomas said. But when it comes to whose money paid for the ticket, and the verbal agreement, he said "the defendant forgets that ever happened."
Thomas is convinced that Meehan's sudden bout of amnesia is a symptom of greed. And while the two brothers don't have an agreement in writing, it shouldn't matter, Thomas said, adding "it's a verbal contract, but it's a contract, nonetheless."
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