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Once a happy-go-lucky Florida lottery winner, Leslie Bowe isn’t smiling any more. Understandably so. Despite his best efforts to prevent it, the $17 million in lottery winnings that Bowe claimed as his own in 1994 now will be divvied up among six former colleagues. It’s all part of a settlement approved last week by a Miami bankruptcy court judge. As part of the deal, Bowe, who works for the Miami-Dade school system, also agreed to drop the Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition that he filed in March. “My life needs to go on,” is all Bowe would say, referring questions to his attorneys. Bowe’s life had been in turmoil since he tried to claim his winnings. Shortly after Bowe was featured in one of the lottery television commercials smiling and clinking a glass of champagne, one of his colleagues, Sylvia Giardina, filed suit, claiming Bowe breached an agreement to split the winnings with her and six other co-workers. Giardina alleged they had participated in a lottery pool and that it was Bowe’s job to collect the money and buy the tickets. Bowe argued that the ticket that won had been bought out of his own money and was not part of the pool. In 1997, a Miami-Dade Circuit jury awarded Giardina more than $500,000, one-eighth of the money Bowe had collected at that time, and gave her a share in continuing annual payments from the prize. Things went from bad to worse for Bowe when the other six members of the lottery pool followed Giardina’s lead, filing their own suit against Bowe. A judge ordered Bowe to pay up, basing his decision on the fact that a jury ruled against Bowe in the previous case. In March, Bowe, who claimed he had become a victim of greed, filed for bankruptcy protection. His attorneys said his assets were limited and that he was unable to pay off his debts, including a $600,000 mortgage, payments on a Mercedes-Benz valued at more than $42,000 and a $500,000 bank loan. But attorneys for the lottery pool filed a petition of their own. They claimed Bowe was using the bankruptcy court as a way to keep them from collecting the money he was ordered to pay and they wanted the court to dismiss his bankruptcy case. Through mediation, Bowe and his former co-workers reached an agreement, which calls for the division of the remaining 14 annual payments, totaling $10.4 million. However, both sides have agreed to keep the exact terms of the settlement confidential. Although he agreed to drop his bankruptcy case, Bowe is still more than $1 million in debt, says his attorney, David Rosendorf of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton in Miami.

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