Admitted Illegal Alien Subject to Deportation : $2-Million Lottery Winner Seized by INS

Times Staff Writers

A San Jose laborer who won $2 million in the state lottery this week was arrested at his home on Wednesday by immigration officials who said they swooped down on him quickly because he had been “bragging” about how he had sneaked into the United States from Mexico.

Arthur Shanks, deputy director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in San Francisco, said his office decided to arrest Jose Caballero, 24, after concluding that “it would look real bad to taxpayers” if Caballero were allowed to remain free after his disclosure that he is an illegal alien.

Shanks said the INS was left in an “embarrassing” position when Caballero, a bachelor who slipped across the border about a year ago, revealed his illegal status to Jamie Bailey, deputy director of the lottery, a few minutes after becoming one of four people to win the top prize during a televised roulette spin Monday.


The next morning, as an INS agent was climbing out of bed in San Jose, he heard the news over the radio.

“Caballero moved up in our priority system, possibly because of all the notoriety,” said David Still, acting officer in charge of the INS office in San Jose. “The word came that we should go out and interview him right away.”

Caballero was taken into custody at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday. He was freed about six hours later on $5,000 bail posted by relatives.

Raising the bail apparently was not a problem, since $70,000--the first of 20 such annual payments--already had been mailed to Caballero by lottery officials. The officials said a total of $1.4 million--his $2-million winnings, less 30% for taxes--will be his to keep, regardless of his immigration status and his country of residence.

Bob Moschorak, associate commissioner for operations in the INS’s Western regional office, said a hearing will be scheduled before a judge in San Francisco--”possibly within 30 days, possibly even later”--to determine whether Caballero should be deported.

“Based on the information we have, it looks like he came in in an illegal manner,” Moschorak said. “He came in through San Ysidro on or about Jan. 4, 1984, falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen.”

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, state lottery officials Wednesday began promoting California’s newest instant lottery game even though more than 60 million tickets remain unsold from the first game, which began Oct. 3.

The new game, which is not scheduled to begin officially until Nov. 14, raises the stakes, offering instant prizes of up to $10,000 and jackpots of up to $3 million.

In a press conference at the lottery’s new statewide headquarters, Lottery Director Mark Michalko previewed television commercials in English and Spanish that depict colorful hot-air balloons drifting over scenic portions of California, in what its creators say is an effort to “evoke a sense of simplicity and happiness” about the games.

Michalko said officials expect interest to drop somewhat as it has in the second round of lottery games held in other states. In all, 300 million tickets will be sold, compared with 400 million in the first game.

Lottery retailers will be allowed to begin selling tickets for the second game only after they exhaust their supplies of first-game tickets. Michalko predicted that the 63 million unsold first-game tickets will be sold by Nov. 14, when the second game is officially scheduled to begin.

The top instant scratch-off prize in the new game will be $10,000, twice that of the first game. Names drawn from among $100 winners will be eligible to spin a grand-prize wheel on a televised program to win additional prizes ranging from $10,000 to $3 million. The wheel also will include a $1-million prize.

Eric Malnic reported from Los Angeles, Leo Wolinsky from Sacramento.