Jose Antonio “Tony” Cua-Toc, age 27, is currently awaiting deportation at the ICE Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. He entered the US illegally in 2000 and still does not know whether he is going to be allowed to stay in the US or has to go back home to Guatemala.
Cua-Toc purchased the winning Jingle Jumbo Bucks lottery ticket in Nov 2010, which should have netted him over half a million dollars after taxes. But because he was undocumented, Cua-Toc thought he wouldn't be able to claim the money and asked his boss Erick Cervantes to do it for him.
Cervantes claimed the money and kept it for himself. Cua-Toc now had a decision to make – whether to fight for his rights, or stay low and keep a low profile. He decided to fight back using the legal justice system.
In Sept 2011, an attorney in Atlanta helped win him the right to stay in the country to fight the lottery lawsuit. Cua-Toc finally had his day in court earlier this month. To be specific, it was four days in a courtroom for a jury trial.
At the end of it, the jury gave Cua-Toc back his $517,500 lottery winnings, and topped it off with $207,000 in attorney’s fees and another $25,000 in punitive damages. But he had to sacrifice his freedom in order to win this battle, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) picked him up.
But the same lottery that got him into trouble with ICE might also help him stay in the US. After people back home in Guatemala got wind of his lottery win, a television crew interviewed his parents. After that, his native home was vandalized and his parents believe the people who did it were looking for the lottery winnings.
Cua-Toc is now a target for nefarious elements and his life will be in danger if he is sent back to Guatemala. His lawyer believes this may be a valid cause for Cua-Toc to seek asylum in the US.
Did you know?
Victims of crime who are in the country illegally can get a four year U-Visa.
The U-Visa confers immigrant crime victims with temporary legal status and permission to seek work. More importantly, a U-Visa holder is on track for a green card within a few years.