MAHWAH - Two men are suing the state Lottery Commission after accidentally throwing away a $1 million winning ticket after a website mistake.
Sal Cambria and his friend Erick Onyango say they constantly think about what could have been. In March 2013, Onyango bought three Powerball tickets at a Mahwah 7-Eleven.
Drawings are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays just before 11 p.m. Onyango says he checked the lottery website on his phone 10 or 15 minutes after 11 p.m. He read the numbers out loud to Cambria, but they didn't match.
So thinking it was a losing ticket, Cambria crumpled it up, stuffed it into a cigarette pack and tossed it in the trash.
Two days later, a clerk at the store mentioned she had sold the winning ticket on her shift, and they checked the numbers again.
"So right away I'm ripping the garbage up," Cambria says. "But I knew he had already thrown the garbage out and they already picked it up."
Onyango says he had accidentally read the numbers from the previous drawing, because the lottery website they went to hadn't been updated.
"You trust that after 11, you wouldn't question the date," he says. "You would assume that even 7 or 10 minutes after 11, it is what it is because the drawing is at 11."
After waiting more than a year for their million-dollar prize to go unclaimed, the two have filed suit over the website error. They say they know the serial number of the winning ticket, which they hope will help them eventually collect the money.
"Hopefully, if everything goes right, I'll just take care of my family and start a new life," Cambria says.
The Lottery Commission has declined to comment on the case, but referred to the disclaimer on the back of the ticket, which says it's not responsible for lost or stolen tickets.