Florida lottery winners exclude co-worker

The Villages, Fla. - December 29, 2010

It's known as Florida's friendliest neighborhood, but there's scandal at the Hacienda Hills Country Club in The Villages.

"Yeah, yeah. Everybody knows," golfer Otto Strunck told WFTV.

Eight employees and players are in a tug of war. The controversy is over a Florida lotto ticket, a winning ticket worth $16 million.

"It'd be an awful shame for money to end friendships," attorney Tom Culmo said.

Culmo is the Miami lawyer for 72-year-old Jeanette French. He says, for years, French and seven friends pooled their cash to buy tickets. Last week they won, but Culmo says the seven won't give his client her fair share; they insist she did not contribute to last week's pool.

Culmo claims, every now and again, when a pool member wasn't at work and couldn't contribute their dollar a fellow member would spot them the buck.

He says that's what happened with his client.

Now, a judge has issued an order that stopped the lottery from turning over the millions, and both sides have lawyers. Those who know the players in this dispute say that is a mistake.

None of the lotto players involved in the lawsuit could be reached for comment.

French's lawyer says the group of seven tried to claim the cash option of $9 million. Each are owed $1.3 million before taxes if seven split the prize.

If they included the eighth winner, it would be $1.1 million each.

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