Bamboozled June 19, 2017: NJ Lottery sends winnings to wrong address, winner says

Ah, to win the lottery…

Even if you don’t hit a multi-million dollar jackpot, coming into unexpected money is a thrill.

Five days a week, Jose Esdaile plays his birthday –0527 — as a straight box in the New Jersey Lottery’s Pick-4 game.

His lucky numbers came up on Sept. 21, 2016.

“I woke up and watched the news and the winning numbers scrolled on the bottom of the screen,” Esdaile said. “I saw it and was like, ‘Yes!’ It was the first time I’ve won something like that.”

The prize was $1,586.50

But now, 10 months later, Esdaile still doesn’t have his winnings.

The Lottery mailed the check to the wrong address.

And someone else cashed the check.

Here’s what happened.

After Esdaile won, he said, he went back to the store where he always buys his tickets.

“They gave me a form and I put down my address — 22 Goble St.” the Newark man said.

After taking a photo of the winning ticket, Esdaile mailed the form and the ticket to the Lottery’s address, he said.

He waited for his winnings, which the married father of four, with one child finishing up college, planned to use for college tuition, or maybe for a vacation to visit his grandchildren.

Esdaile said he didn’t receive the check right away, so he returned to his favorite lottery ticket seller. The clerks said it doesn’t usually take that long to receive winnings, Esdaile said, and they suggested he call the Lottery for an update.

When he called, he got shocking news.

The Lottery rep said his check was already mailed — and it was cashed.

“I asked where they sent the check, and they said 32 Goble St.,” Esdaile said.

He checked his copy of the form and confirmed he had written the correct address — 22 Goble St.

The Lottery followed up in writing, saying the check was cashed on Nov. 1.

“[The Department of Treasury] will be investigating this case and should be contacting you shortly to inform you of the next step in the investigation process,” the letter said. “Unfortunately, from this point on, the case is out of the hands of the New Jersey Lottery.”

The next letter he received was dated Nov. 7 by Treasury’s Office of Management and Budget.

It included a copy of a check and an “affidavit of forgery” form for Esdaile to complete and have notarized.

“I saw the copy of the check, front and back, and it obviously wasn’t my signature,” he said.

Esdaile completed the form and had it notarized on Nov. 14, records show, and he mailed it back.

The investigation could take 90 days, he said he was told.

“I said okay, I just have to wait,” Esdaile said.

So he waited.

December passed. And January. And February.

At the end of February, Esdaile said, he called the Lottery for an update. The rep said they hadn’t yet heard back from Treasury on the case.

After that conversation, Esdaile said he made it a point to call every Friday from February to April.

None of the calls yielded answers.

“It shouldn’t be like this,” Esdaile said. “It’s not my fault they sent it to the wrong address. It’s ridiculous.”

He asked Bamboozled for help.

We reviewed copies of Esdaile’s paperwork and his lottery ticket, which indeed was a winner.

Then we asked the Lottery to take a look at the case.

After a few days, we had an answer.

“I am pleased to report that the matter has been resolved and Mr. Esdaile will be receiving a certified cashier’s check next week,” Lottery spokeswoman Judy Drucker said.

She said the check will be sent certified mail requiring a signature, or, if Esdaile prefers, he could pick up the check at Lottery headquarters.

“While we apologize for the length of time it has taken to resolve this matter, and certainly understand that Mr. Esdaile is anxious to receive his winnings, the bank has 180 days in which to investigate and respond to a fraudulently cashed check,” Drucker said.

Drucker wished him luck in playing future New Jersey Lottery games.

Mistakes happen. We’re just glad this came to a happy ending so quickly — after such a long wait.

So was Esdaile.

“I’m ecstatic, happy that finally I’m getting the money, just in time for a nice vacation with my family,” Esdaile said, noting he can now celebrate his wedding anniversary and see his grandchildren in one trip.

He’ll simply pay for his daughter’s last year of college from cash flow.

Or maybe another lottery win.

Hey, you never know.

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