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Long Beach man claims lotto officials withheld $5-million prize because his underage son bought his ticket

A Long Beach man is suing the state and the California Lottery Commission, claiming he was denied $5 million in prize money because his 16-year-old son purchased his winning ticket.

In October, Ward Thomas sent his son to buy five scratchers from a Mobil gas station on Bellflower Boulevard in Long Beach using a dozen other winning tickets, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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After snagging the tickets, the teen went outside to pass them to his father.

At home that night, Thomas scratched the tickets and discovered that one was a winner, with a prize value of $5 million.

Within a couple of hours of the purchase, the lawsuit states, Thomas validated the ticket at a 7-Eleven. The following day, he validated it again at the lottery's Santa Ana district office.

But two months later, the state and the commission "improperly" withheld the prize money from Thomas because his son — who at 16, was not legally able to play — bought the ticket, according to the suit. Lottery participants must be 18 years old.

A lottery commission representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

The gas station, which is also named as a defendant, "falsely represented" that minors can buy tickets on behalf of someone else, the lawsuit states. The store clerk never asked the teenager for his age or identification.

"Nowhere inside the Mobil store was there any signage informing customers that they had to be 18 years of age in order to obtain California State Lottery Scratchers tickets," the suit said.

Meanwhile, the commission failed to enforce its own rules and neglected to train retailers about them, the lawsuit claims.

Thomas is suing the state and the commission for failure to discharge a mandatory duty, and the gas station for breach of express and implied contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and negligence.

Thomas is seeking more than $50,000 in general damages, as well as economic losses and specific damages for breach of contract.

Follow me on Twitter @AleneTchek

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