LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California convenience store worker who said her boss stole her $8 million lottery ticket has recouped her winnings in court.
A jury in Pomona, east of Los Angeles, on Tuesday ordered Circle K Stores and assistant store manager Gurinder Ruby to pay $7.9 million to compensate 27-year-old Arwa Farraj for emotional distress and for the value of the winning ticket.
Farraj bought the ticket while working on Christmas Day in 1999 at a Circle K store in La Verne, California.
The next day, she showed the ticket to her supervisor, Ruby, who told her it was worth $88 and paid her the money from his own pocket.
About a month later, Farraj learned from another employee that Ruby had won an $8 million lottery jackpot but continued to work at the store, her attorney Browne Greene said.
She immediately reported the suspected theft to police and state lottery officials, who agreed but could do nothing because Ruby had already claimed the jackpot and sent much of the money overseas, Greene said. She sued in February of 2000.
During the trial, the jury heard evidence that the store's surveillance tape had been erased during the five minutes when Farraj purchased her ticket.
Store time sheets showed that Ruby was not in the store during the time stamped on the ticket, and his bank records revealed that he had paid the store manager $11,500 shortly after collecting the jackpot, Greene said.
"We got so much evidence at the end of this that the jury really had no choice," Greene said. The jury deliberated for five hours before finding Circle K, which collected $40,000 for selling the winning ticket, and Ruby liable for fraud and conversion.
Attorneys for Ruby and for the Tempe, Arizona-based convenience store chain, a unit of oil company ConocoPhillips, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Farraj, who emigrated from Jordan in 1992, planned to use her court winnings to finish college and to take care of her parents and eight siblings.