Lottery winners in Illinois are enraged after the state reportedly failed to pay out their winnings.
According to American Web Media, several winners have sought legal help after the state allegedly neglected to pay out a total of $288 million in lottery winnings.
The state of Illinois places the blame on its budget crisis.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the state continued to sell tickets despite its inability to pay prizes totaling more than $25,000. Two lottery winners filed a federal lawsuit against the Illinois Lottery.
"How the heck can they do this, and they're still selling tickets?" said Illinois resident Rhonda Rasche, who has not been paid the $50,000 she won from a $3 scratch-off ticket. "If I was the one selling raffle tickets and I didn't pay, I would be sued or in jail or both."
Rasche had planned to use the money for home improvements, new furniture and a vacation for her best friend and her best friend's sister, who took care of their mother while she battled a terminal illness.
"I feel like my balloon was kind of deflated," she said. "I wasn't totally banking on the money, but it was pretty crushing. I just feel like it's totally unfair."
Rasche filed a class-action complaint. She and Danny Chasteen, her co-plaintiff who won $250,000 from the state, are among a group of more than two dozen lottery winners awaiting payouts.
Another winner, Susan Rick, told Inside Edition that she is owed thousands from the state.
"We won," Rick said. "We can finally have a comfortable life. Suddenly you're gonna pull the rug out from under us. We had a ticket for $250,000."
A group of Chicago city employees put money into a lottery pool and won $1 million, but have not seen a single penny of their winnings.
The class-action lawsuit accuses the state lottery of committing fraud by continuing to advertise and sell tickets, despite its inability to pay out prizes over $25,000. The state continued to pay wages, including Lottery Director B.R. Lane's salary of $142,000, however.
"If any private business would engage in this kind of conduct selling tickets and not paying out the winner, the state would shut down and indict them for fraud," said attorney Tom Zimmerman, who is representing some of the winners.
"They've got the money; they just don't have the legal authority to spend it," said Democratic State Rep. Jack Franks, who plans to file legislation to change that.