Shared from the 1/4/2018 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette eEdition

Judge asked to freeze lottery prize

Hold $300,000 until dispute settled, claimant’s rival says


Special to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Mandy Vanhouten is pictured Dec. 27 after cashing a $300,000 lottery ticket that is the subject of a lawsuit.

The Carlisle woman who claimed a $300,000 Arkansas Lottery prize last week should be barred from spending any of the money until a Pulaski County circuit judge can decide whether she has a right to the entire prize, according to a lawsuit filed by a woman who says they were supposed to split the winnings.

Mandy Vanhouten collected the proceeds on Dec.

27. The money is the last of three top prizes available in the $300,000 Fortune instant-ticket game that debuted in August.

The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery reported that Vanhouten bought the winning $10 ticket at G&B Liquor in Stuttgart and quoted her as saying she was going to use the prize “to make her life easier.”

But as of Tuesday, Vanhouten is also going to need a lawyer to answer accusations in the suit filed by Leslie Underwood, who says that she and Vanhouten had agreed to share the proceeds but that Vanhouten collected the money herself and “skipped town.”

Underwood states that she’s entitled to half the winnings, and her lawsuit asks Judge Chip Welch to force Vanhouten to put half the prize into a court-supervised bank account until he decides whether Underwood is entitled to the share.

Underwood, represented by attorneys Antwan Phillips and Daveante Jones of Wright, Lindsey and Jennings law firm, argues that she’s also entitled to a temporary restraining order to bar Vanhouten from spending any of the money.

If Vanhouten spends the money before the judge decides that Underwood is entitled to half, it’s unlikely that Vanhouten could afford to repay her, the lawsuit states. No hearings have been scheduled.

According to the suit, Underwood and Vanhouten were friends and both working as waitresses at Sportsman Drive-In in Stuttgart when Steven Luckadoo gave them eight scratch-off tickets on Dec. 22 with the understanding that Underwood and Vanhouten would split any winnings from the tickets.

The women immediately discovered one of the tickets was a $300,000 winner. Vanhouten took the ticket over the Christmas weekend, redeemed it by herself on Dec. 27 and never returned to work, the lawsuit states.

A phone number for Vanhouten could not be found.

The courts have been called on to decide lottery ticket ownership before. Deciding who was entitled to a $1 million ticket — $680,000 after taxes — took about 15 months to resolve in White County before the sides agreed on a confidential settlement in November 2012.

The ticket claimant in that case was barred by court order from spending the money until a judge could determine ownership.

Sharon Jones of Beebe claimed the prize in July 2011 using a ticket that had been discarded after being deemed a loser at a Beebe convenience store.

The store’s manager, Lisa Petriches, sued Jones the next month. Petriches argued that she was the rightful owner because the ticket had come out of a receptacle in the store for losing tickets that was labeled “Do Not Take.” Petriches contended the discards belonged to her under an agreement with the store’s owners.

The first attempt at trial was ended by the lawyers after Judge Thomas Hughes said neither woman might have a claim on the ticket after a third woman surfaced as the likely original purchaser.

At a second trial, the judge ruled that the purchaser, Sharon Duncan, was entitled to the winnings. She said she had thrown the ticket away after it appeared to be a loser.

But three weeks later, the judge canceled his verdict without explanation and ordered a new trial. He then recused from the proceedings, saying that “repeated attacks” on his integrity by one of Jones’ attorneys had drawn his impartiality into question.

The case was assigned to another judge, but the parties reached a confidential settlement shortly before trial that included the store’s owner, Luay Dajani.

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