Published on: August 8, 2023, 04:03h.
Last updated on: August 8, 2023, 04:03h.
An A Coruña, Spain, lottery ticket vendor who gained international attention in 2013 for an act of generosity was actually attempting to deceive a €4.7 million (US$5.2 million) winner, according to Spanish prosecutors.
Over a decade ago, Manuel Reija González was hailed as a “good Samaritan” after allegedly discovering a winning lottery ticket while cleaning a lost property box. He then embarked on a mission to locate the rightful winner. However, prosecutors now allege that he was deceiving the media and intended to claim the jackpot for himself.
In 2013, Reija stated that he never considered keeping the ticket and wanted to maintain a clear conscience. Nevertheless, according to prosecutors, he collaborated with his brother, an employee of the lottery company, to obtain the prize money. Prior to this, when the true owner presented the ticket, Reija informed them that the prize was a little over €1, which he paid out.
Reija’s plan was to keep the money if the genuine winner could not be found within two years, as stipulated by Spanish law.
As the search commenced, lottery officials withheld information about when and where the ticket was purchased. This allowed them to assess the validity of the claims made by those asserting to be the winner. Despite receiving 317 claims, none of them proved genuine.
As suspicions arose regarding Reija’s story, investigators resolved to locate the true winner.
Since many individuals consistently select the same lottery numbers, investigators examined the records to identify ticket sales using the same numbers as the winning ticket. Through this process, they determined that the set of numbers was typically purchased in A Coruña, except during Christmas and Easter holidays when they appeared in popular vacation destinations such as the Costa del Sol and Mallorca.
Chief inspector José Manuel López mentioned, “We reached the conclusion that this was someone with plenty of free time who took the Christmas and Easter holidays somewhere warm, probably a senior citizen,” in an interview with The Guardian.
Investigators then contacted IMSERSO, a state-run agency responsible for organizing vacations for senior citizens. Ultimately, they located a woman whose actions aligned with the ticket purchases. It was determined that she was the widow of the real winner, and she will finally receive the jackpot.
Reija now faces six years in prison for fraud and money laundering.