Million-dollar lottery ticket pits Sanford store owner against employee
Posted December 10, 2014
Updated December 11, 2014
Sanford, N.C. — A Sanford man says he was cheated out of his share of a million-dollar winning lottery ticket by his former employer, a convenience store owner who says the two never went in together to buy the ticket.
Ben Elijah says he and Shailesh Patel, who owns Value Mart on Carthage Street, each paid $5 for the $10 scratch-off ticket back on Oct. 9 – a practice the two have had for the seven years he worked part-time running the cash register and sweeping floors at the business.
The pair even won and split $1,000 back in 2009, he says.
"We always scratch tickets together," Elijah said. "While I was mopping the floor, he scratched a million-dollar ticket. He didn't tell me."
Elijah says he heard from a friend that the ticket was sold at the store.
"But Mr. Patel kept telling everybody it was a traveler (that bought the ticket), that he didn't know who it was, which I can understand," Elijah said. "But I knew it was my ticket. It was our ticket."
Elijah says Patel claimed a lump sum that, after taxes, ended up being about $415,000.
"I should have went to the lottery office with him," he said. "That would have been better, but I trusted him."
Patel on Wednesday denied splitting the purchases for lottery tickets, including that $1,000 win several years ago.
He declined to comment, but his attorney, Norman Post, calls Elijah's claim "bogus" and says there is no record or witnesses of the two men ever buying the ticket together.
As far as the million-dollar ticket, he says the North Carolina Education Lottery investigated the win – a routine practice when a retailer wins from a scratch-off ticket. That investigation included footage of a security video from the store that, Patel claims, showed Elijah was not present when Patel bought the ticket.
Elijah says he has retained an attorney and is willing to go to court over the matter, if necessary.
But hopes he doesn't have to do so. He now feels betrayed.
"I lost something I could never get back, no matter how much money I would have won," he said.