CHICAGO HEIGHTS | The Illinois Lottery this week refused to pay the $118 million prize won 12 workers at the Pita Pan Bakery, citing lawsuits filed by five other employees claiming they are entitled to a share of the winnings.
A group of employees at the bakery at 401 E. Joe Orr Road routinely pool money to buy lottery tickets, and that group has the winning ticket for the prize from the record-setting Mega Millions drawing on May 4.
The group on Wednesday officially came forward to try to claim the prize, providing a list of 12 employees who they say ought to be included.
That list did not include the names of five other employees who already have filed lawsuits in Cook County Circuit Court, which Illinois Lottery officials cited as their reason for not paying out the prize.
Lottery officials Friday said the prize is "claimed," but that names won’t be released until the lawsuit is resolved.
That action on the state’s part pleased Chicago attorney Michael LaMonica, who represents four of the five employees who believe they should be included in the prize payout.
His lawsuit had sought a court order preventing the state from paying the prize until the lawsuits were resolved, and he was glad the state automatically complied with that request.
The result of all this is that the prize may not be paid out for several years, unless a settlement can be reached sooner.
Attorneys were in court before Judge Kathleen Pantle at the Daley Center in Chicago most recently on Tuesday. LaMonica said that little of substance came out of those hearings, held prior to anyone actually trying to claim the prize.
"It would have been premature for anything of substance to happen then," LaMonica said, adding that he had hoped the group of bakery workers with the ticket would include his clients in their list just to avoid lengthy litigation.
"Until they submitted their list without all the names, there was a chance that all this could be avoided," LaMonica said. "I knew they probably wouldn’t, but there was a chance."
The five employees, one of whom has his own attorney and is refusing to comment on his lawsuit, believe they are entitled to a share of the $118 million prize because in most weeks, they contribute money to the pool put together by bakery workers.
Just the week before, they purchased a ticket that won $9 which was deposited back into the pool for tickets for the May 4 drawing. But because of a change in the day on which workers put their money together, the five did not get a chance to contribute more funds.
The five say that because they gave money toward the $9 prize, they have a claim on this prize. The dozen workers say they do not.