General News of Thu, 10 May 20016
Cabbies' Suit Puts $93mil Jackpot on Hold
There are two factions among Ghanaian taxi drivers at Hartsfield International Airport: Those who say they're millionaires. And those who say they ought to be.
A group of 14 cabbies has sued a fellow driver who organized a collective lottery pool, claiming he unfairly left them out of Friday's $90 million Big Game jackpot and kept the winnings for himself and about two dozen other drivers.
Cobb County Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs ordered the Georgia Lottery Corp. to refrain from paying out the seven-state Big Game winnings until the dispute is settled. A hearing is set for May 25.
Augustin Kouame, one of the cabbies who says he has been shut out of the winnings, took a call on his cell phone Wednesday as he ferried a passenger. But he was reluctant to talk about the lawsuit filed Monday.
"We have both sides trying to talk this out amicably before everything blows out," he said. "We're all brothers, we're all from Africa. I'm pretty sure everything might come to a successful conclusion."
Rebecca Paul, president of the Georgia Lottery Corp., said lottery officials will abide by the judge's Tuesday order. But it's a moot point for the moment, because they have no official word on who won the jackpot.
Although someone bought the winning quick-pick ticket for the Big Game in Griffin, "There has not been a winning ticket turned in," Paul said Wednesday. She said the ticket must be presented by Oct. 31 or it will be void.
Pools win about 16 percent of big jackpots, Paul said. Some groups have written agreements on how winnings will be shared.
That doesn't appear to be the case this time.
The dispute revolves around cabdriver Max
Ossei-Wasu of Austell. He collected $5 from each of 37 taxi drivers for at least two drawings, the lawsuit says.
The pool's small winnings were to be used to purchase additional tickets in future drawings for the group, the lawsuit says.
But last week, the suit contends, some drivers were left out. Although the lawsuit does not specifically say Ossei-Wasu refused to collect the money from the 14 cabbies, it says he bought the lottery tickets "notwithstanding plaintiff's offer to continue to invest still another $5 in furtherance of the joint venture."
On Friday, Ossei-Wasu hit the big one. He doesn't plan to share the winnings with those who didn't pay, the suit says.
Ossei-Wasu's daughter answered the phone at his home Wednesday, but said her father told her not to talk to anyone about the lottery. He did not return a phone message.
The purchaser of the winning ticket chose the cash option, lottery spokeswoman Parquita Nassau said. Instead of a $90 million payout over 26 years, the jackpot will be a one-time payout of $49.4 million.
Split 37 ways, that would come to $1.3 million per person. In a 23-way split, each winner would get $2.1 million.
Twenty-two of the winning cabbies are from Ghana and one is from Trinidad, said Kwame Asante, general manager of the cab company Star Organization. Asante's brother is one of the cabbies who claim they were shut out of the payoff.
Asante said about 16 of the winners work for Star.
Lottery pools among cabbies at Hartsfield International Airport are an old tradition, Asante said. Drivers wait sometimes three or four hours for a fare, he said, so there's plenty of time for networking.
He said lotteries are popular in Ghana - "big time."
Although Ghana is one of the world's poorest nations, with a per capita income of $350-$400, many Ghanaians scrape together the money to play national and private lotteries, including a state-sponsored seasonal lottery, car raffles, the national weekly lotto and a scratch-off game.
Cabbies at the Atlanta airport Wednesday buzzed over the lottery dispute.
Many said the losing cabbies shouldn't have filed a lawsuit but instead should have worked it out with their friends. Others said the winners are lying low, and they think that's smart.
"We don't want the winners to come here. It could be dangerous. Things could happen to them if people know they won a lot of money," said cab driver Al Hassan Brimah, a native of Ghana.
Driver David Hall, of Eritrea, didn't enter the pool because he buys tickets on his own.
"The winners should say, 'We'll share the money,' " Hall said. "They played together. They're out of the same country. They share the same food, and with what's happened, the lawyers will eat the money."
Felix Klugey, a 26-year Atlanta resident who is originally from Ghana, said he played the lottery with Ossei-Wasu's group three times. He felt his contributions from last Tuesday would roll over to Friday and he would have seen part of the big winnings, but he has not joined the lawsuit.
Klugey said he attended a meeting at Ossei-Wasu's house about the lottery.
"I'm one of the winners," Klugey said he told them. "And they said I wasn't. I couldn't fight it."
The lawsuit, which has been updated each day since it was filed, says Ossei-Wasu collected money starting "on or before April 24." He initially collected $5 from each person, the suit says.
No one won the jackpot on April 24, but the group did win $30. Three days later, Ossei-Wasu took that $30, collected $5 again from each driver, and created a pool to buy more tickets.
Again, no one won big money on April 27, but the group did win $15.
The lawsuit says Ossei-Wasu was required to take that $15 in winnings, collect more money and buy more tickets until somebody won the big jackpot. Until last Friday, the Big Game jackpot had rolled over 16 times without a winner.
Asante, whose brother, Gordon Wilson, was one of the 14 plaintiffs, told Wilson to drop out of the lawsuit. And Wilson says he has.
"The proper way," Asante said, "is they should have told them, 'Hey, we are part of the group. It's unfortunate we didn't play, but you should consider us.' "
IN THE SUPERIOR COURT FOR THE COUNTY OF COBB STATE OF GEORGIA
Max Ossei-Wasu, individually and as agent for the plaintiffs and Big Game Lottery Defendants
Now comes plaintiffs herein, who show the Court the following:
1.That defendant Max Ossei-Wasu ... is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court.
2. That on or before April 24, 2001 the defendant Max Ossei-Wasu devised a joint venture consortium of people to invest in winning the Big Game Lottery, wherein he contacted thirty-five (35) people, including the twelve (12) plaintiffs and proposed that each person invest five dollars ($5.00) each time the Big Game Lottery was held, everyone would give him their money, he would purchase Big Game Lottery tickets with all of the money he received, and in the event there was no Big Game Lottery winner, each of the thirty-five people, including the plaintiffs, would invest another five dollars ($5.00) toward winning the Big Game Lottery, and if one of the lottery tickets won some sum of money, he would add that sum of money to the additional investment and purchase additional lottery tickets with the winnings and continue until there was a Big Game Lottery winner.
3. That on April 24, 2001 pursuant to and in furtherance of this joint venture, defendant Max Ossei-Wasu took five dollars ($5,00) from thirty-five (35) people, including but not limited to the plaintiffs, totaling One Hundred Sixty Dollars ($160.00), and he purchased One Hundred Sixty (160) Big Game Lottery tickets on behalf of the consortium.
4. That whereas there was no Big Game Lottery winner, the joint venture won thirty dollars ($30.00), which winning was jointly owned by the entire consortium of persons, including the plaintiffs.
5. That on April 27, 2001, pursuant to and in furtherance of this joint venture, defendant Max Ossei-Wasu took still another five dollars ($5.00) for those thirty-five persons, including but not limited to the plaintiff, totally One Hundred Sixty Dollars ($160.00), to which he added the aforementioned thirty dollar ($30.00) winnings, and he purchased One Hundred Ninety (190) Big Game Lottery tickets on behalf of the consortium.
6. That whereas there was no Big Game Lottery winner, the joint venture won fifteen dollars ($15.00), which winnings was jointly owned by the entire consortium of persons, including the plaintiffs.
7. That defendant Max Ossei-Wasu did not distribute the aforementioned fifteen dollar ($15.00) winnings to any of the consortium of persons, including the plaintifsf, intending instead to invest said winnings in purchasing still more Big Game Lottery tickets in furtherance of the joint-venture.
8. That on May 1, 2001, contrary to the joint venture and contrary to the interests of the plaintiffs, and notwithstanding plaintiffs offer to continue to invest still another five dollars ($5.00) in furtherance of the joint venture, defendant Max Ossei-Wasu purchased Big Game Lottery tickets
9. That on May 4. 2001 one of the Big Game Lottery tickets purchased by defendant Max Ossei-Wasu on behalf of the joint-venture won the Big Game Lottery.
10. That defendant Max Ossei-Wasu's joint-venture that he devised on behalf of the plaintiffs and the joint-venture, was successful.
11. That defendant Max Ossei-Wasu, as plaintiffs agent, created an agency coupled with an interest.
12. That defendant Max Ossei-Wasu owed plaintiffs a fiduciary duty and he breached that duty to his own personal benefits, contrary to plaintiffs benefit.
13. That defendant Max Ossei-Wasu breached his fiduciary duty he owed to the plaintiffs; by denying plaintiffs their equal and proportionate share of the May 4, 2001 Big Game Lottery winnings.
14. That plaintiffs relied upon the representations of the defendant Max Ossei-Wasu in his creation of the joint-venture, to reinvest their aforementioned Big Game Lottery winnings to purchase additional Big Game Lottery tickets in furtherance of the joint-venture, and in furtherance of plaintiffs interests.
15. It is impossible to determine whether or not the May 4, 2001 winning Big Game Lottery ticket came from the aforementioned Big Game Lottery winnings.
16. That defendant Max Ossei-Wasu breached the joint-venture by refusing to accept plaintiffs' five dollar ($5.00) investments into the May 4, 2001 Big Game Lottery, in furtherance of the joint-venture.
17. That each plaintiff is entitled to an undivided, equal share of the May 4. 2001 Big Game Lottery winnings obtained by defendant Max Ossei-Wasu, on behalf of the joint-venture.
18. That plaintiffs show the Court that unless restrained and enjoined, the Big Game Lottery will dispense the May 4, 2001 winnings, but will not dispense to plaintiffs their equal share and that plaintiffs require this Equitable relief to require the Big Game Lottery to pay the May 4, 2001 Big Game Lottery winnings into the registry of this Court, until this matter could be resolved by trial.
WHEREFORE, plaintiffs respectfully pray:
a.That plaintiff be awa rded an equal and proportionate share of the May 4, 2001 Big Game Lottery winnings.
b. That this matter be determined by a trial by jury.
c. That this Court require that the Big Game Lottery pay the entire May 4, 2001 winnings into this Court's registry, until this matter has been resolved.
d. That plaintiffs be awarded Equitable relief.
e. That plaintiffs be awarded such other and further relief deemed just and proper in the premises.
Respectfully submitted, Howard L. Sopeck Attorney for Plaintiff