Can the State Take Your Lottery Winnings Without Explaining Why?

He had a winning lottery ticket worth $1,000, and then the state unemployment office took his winnings and would not tell him why.

That’s when he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

The coronavirus has made cash tight for a lot of people, and it’s why Armando was hoping for some luck in the lottery.

Armando Lopez, Jr.: “I never won nothing in the lottery before.”

COVID time would be a perfect time for Armando to win since his wife lost her job and his income has taken a big drop.

Armando Lopez, Jr.: “Drained, I’m super stressing.”

Then he scratched off those lottery tickets…

Armando Lopez, Jr.: “And the only one that was $1,000 winner is the one that we got, and we started jumping to joy. We’re super happy.”

$1,000 in the middle of the pandemic. Armando knew exactly where it would be spent.

Armando Lopez, Jr.: “And once we saw that scratch off like I’m saying thank God that we won $1,000. That was 90% of my rent right there with all $5 scratch off.”

With the lottery offices closed, Armando mailed in the winning ticket to get his money, then was told he wasn’t getting the cash because the unemployment office claimed he owed them money, and so they grabbed it.

Armando Lopez, Jr.: “‘Do you recall getting unemployment?’ I said no, I’ve been working for the past 20 years. I don’t remember collecting unemployment. I do not have no child support. I do not have no IRS debt.”

Armando said he tried to contact the unemployment office to let them know he didn’t owe them anything. As you might be aware, it’s easier to win a billion-dollar lottery than get through the unemployment system.

Armando Lopez, Jr.: “I had called maybe 20, 30 times, maybe. Maybe less, maybe more. I even called Tallahassee.”

No one could or would explain why they grabbed his lottery winnings, and so, Armando waits.

Armando Lopez, Jr.: “That’s why you play to win, as they say, and I’m still standing here waiting.”

Well, Howard, can the state take your lottery winnings and not explain why?

Howard Finkelstein: “Yes, the lottery office is required to take it if you owe child support or money to any government agency, but in this case, the unemployment then has to show why you owe the money. If they cannot, Armando is entitled to get the winnings.”

Next up, COVID has many public school teachers afraid to return to the classroom when Dade and Broward go back to in-person learning. Howard, if they don’t go, can they be fired?

Howard Finkelstein: “This is going to be complicated. Teachers can use any leave or vacation days. Some can file under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Family Medical Leave Act to stay home even though you don’t get paid, or they can ask for a leave of absence, but if they don’t qualify for any of that, legally, it’s not yet clear if they can be fired.

Some people are nervous about voting in November in person and want a mail-in ballot, but they have asked us if they have to meet certain qualifications to get that ballot. Do you?

Howard Finkelstein: “Many states require you to be disabled or be out of town on election day to get a mail-in ballot, but not Florida. Any registered voter can get that ballot. All you just have to ask your elections office is to mail it to you. The links to do that are at under this story.”

Here is one: At a restaurant, a viewer was told, because of COVID, they would not let him pay with cash, only a credit card. Can a business refuse cash in America?

Howard Finkelstein: “This is easy. Yes, a business can refuse cash and only accept credit cards.

We got the unemployment office to talk to Armando. They told him he owed around $800 plus interest for unemployment he got back in 2001. They got the wrong guy, said Armando, and he is filing a dispute to get his lottery winnings, leaving him irritated with the state of Florida.

Armando Lopez, Jr.: “Super annoyed, super frustrated, and I like playing with the hope of winning the lottery, winning a big prize of a scratch-off. I don’t even play no more.”

Battling the bureaucracy when you can go into an office and sit down with a human being is tough. Battling the state when it’s all online and anonymous… talk about frustrating.

Now, if you have a problem you can’t resolve, a COVID question you want to get answered, get in touch with us.
We are here to help you out.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

For more information on requesting mail-in ballots:



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