FLEMINGTON — A New Jersey Lottery winner has been waiting on a $1,000 prize since last year.

Joseph, who asked that his last name not be disclosed, said that in late November he won $1,000 playing the fast-draw Cash Pop at the Flemington Coffee Shop. He said he filled out the claim forms, signed the ticket and mailed it.

He was aware that with the pandemic it could take double the usual time, or up to six weeks, to receive his money. But nearly five months later, Joseph not only hadn’t received his winnings, he also couldn't get through to the Lottery Commission.

“Thirty-three emails, not one response,” Joseph said to New Jersey 101.5, adding that his repeated phone calls only reach a recorded message with no options for leaving his own information.

The owner of the coffee shop at 23 Reaville Ave., Santiago Cuellar, said it’s “crazy” and a “dereliction of duty” that his regular customer had been waiting so long for his prize.

Cuellar said on Tuesday that he spoke to his shop's lottery agent about three weeks ago regarding Joseph’s outstanding claim and that she said she would look into it.

It’s the only case that he's personally aware of, Cuellar said, adding that he could even understand a couple of months of delays but not more than four months.

After two days of leaving messages, New Jersey 101.5 was able to put Joseph in contact with a representative. It turns out, his claim had never arrived in the mail, officials said.

Regardless of that "one-off" mail issue, there's still a delay in the claims process as of mid-April.

"Pre-COVID-19, the New Jersey Lottery processed approximately 4,000 claims monthly and players could expect to be paid in three to four weeks after mailing a claim. However, due to COVID-19, the Lottery is operating under strict guidelines instituted to keep both our players and employees safe," according to Missy Gillespie, NJ Lottery spokeswoman. "Additionally, claims can only be entered into our system at our headquarters."

"However, in some instances, the processing time may be longer due to a number of variables," she said, adding that the Lottery had processed claims received through March 10.

 

Joseph said he happened to be at the coffee shop when the lottery agent came to deliver a “$1,000 winner” sign “a couple of months ago,” which he told her should not be installed since he hasn’t been paid yet.

The shop hadn’t received its bonus off the winning ticket before the issue with the lost claim forms had come to light, Cuellar said.

Retailers typically receive their credit within the same week as the winner "due to our existing business relationship, which enables their commissions and bonuses to be factored into their weekly invoices," Gillespie said.

New Jersey was the first state lottery to launch Cash Pop in September 2019.

As of Thursday, the New Jersey Lottery Headquarters in Lawrence remained open by appointment only, according to the NJ Lottery website.

DID YOU KNOW: New Jersey has a volcano!

CHECK OUT: Where NJ's biggest winning lottery tickets were sold