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PA man ordered to give former girlfriend half of $100,000 lottery prize

Oct 12, 2020, 12:30 pm

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Pennsylvania Lottery

He broke up with her a week after winning

By Kate Northrop

A Pennsylvania Superior Court panel ruled on Friday that a man who split from his long-time girlfriend one week after winning $100,000 from a scratch-off lottery ticket must give her half the winnings.

During a period of attempted reconciliation in February 2018, Jeffrey Jones and Ruthann Colachino were ecstatic to win a $100,000 prize from the "Bingo Squared" scratch-off game.

The money used to buy the winning ticket came from a sizable tax refund of $5,501 from claiming their child as a dependent, therefore Jones agreed to share the refund with Colachino. Shortly after midnight on Feb. 22, 2018 Jones received the money in his bank account, and the pair immediately went out to the local Turkey Hill Minit Market to buy some lottery tickets.

Court documents cite that both Jones and Colachino were frequent shoppers at the convenience store and were well-known for purchasing lottery tickets in each other's company. The couple returned to their shared home, where Jones scratched off the winning ticket to discover that it was a prize-winning ticket worth $100,000.

"The parties were understandably elated, and loudly professed their shared intention to use the money to leave public housing and buy a home together with the winnings," court documents read.

That same day, the winners claimed their prize at the Pennsylvania Lottery Office in Middletown, which totaled $72,930 after taxes. Despite the joyous windfall, things weren't happy for long.

One week later on March 3, 2018, Jones broke off his relationship with Colachino. They never bought a home, and Jones did not share a single cent of the lottery winnings with his former girlfriend.

Colachino promptly filed a complaint on March 15 that accused Jones of violating the agreement they had to equally share the lottery winnings.

Following a lengthy and in-depth review of the case, including surveillance footage at the convenience store and testimonies from Jones, Colachino, and even the clerk who sold the winning ticket, a Lackawanna County judge ruled on Oct. 8, 2019 that both Jones and Colachino were involved in a joint venture, and that Colachino was entitled to one half of the proceeds from the winning lottery ticket.

Jones appealed the decision, arguing that there was truly never a joint venture between him and his then-girlfriend because they did not combine resources for the purposes of purchasing lottery tickets. Rather, he claimed, they made their own individual purchases. He also inferred that any verbal agreement to split the winnings is a resulting trust, and that the imposition of a resulting trust can only be made through a court in equity.

Judge Mary Jane Bowes denied his post-trial motions on Nov. 15, 2019 and concluded that Colachino was indeed entitled to her fair share of the prize based on testimony, video evidence, and the fact that the pair had jointly bought the ticket. Even after the purchase, both parties "enjoyed a 'right of mutual control' over the lottery tickets, as evinced by their inability to differentiate amongst the tickets purchased."

"Contrary to Mr. Jones arguments, his testimony evinces a clear intent to use the winnings for the mutual benefit of the parties," Bowes determined.

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