Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Illegal immigrant at center of WR lottery ticket dispute granted voluntary departure (Macon Telegraph)

Illegal immigrant at center of WR lottery ticket dispute granted voluntary departure

Tuesday, Jul. 05, 2011

WARNER ROBINS -- An illegal immigrant who filed a civil lawsuit over a $750,000 winning lottery ticket was granted a 60-day voluntary departure Tuesday.

Jose Antonio Cua-Toc, 25, of Bonaire, who is also at the center of a criminal case over alleged terroristic threats in connection with the same lottery ticket, is being held in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin.

He had been jailed in Houston County on Nov. 27 for allegedly threatening lottery winner Erick Cervantes and his family. Cua-Toc threatened “to kill each of them and their children if they did not give him some of the lottery winnings,” according to a Warner Robins police report.

While jailed in Houston County, Cua-Toc’s attorneys filed suit against Cervantes and his wife, Sonia, contending Cua-Toc was the rightful owner of the Georgia Lottery ticket, purchased in Warner Robins, and that Cervantes claimed the winnings on Cua-Toc’s behalf -- but then kept the winnings.

The voluntary departure, which is a relief from removal, was granted at Cua-Toc’s deportation hearing, his Atlanta attorney Julio E. Moreno said Tuesday by telephone.

A removal order would have meant deportation for Cua-Toc and would have barred him from any legal attempts to enter the U.S. for 10 years, Moreno said. Cua-Toc now has until Sept. 6 to leave the U.S. voluntarily while under confinement.

Moreno explained Cua-Toc is required to provide documentation of having secured and paid for an airline ticket to his native home of Guatemala. Once that is arranged, ICE will then escort Cua-Toc to the airport to board his flight.

The voluntary departure is beneficial to Cua-Toc because it buys Moreno time to continue pursuing a U-Visa. A U-Visa would allow Cua-Toc to temporarily stay in the U.S. and place him on track to get his green card for permanent residence within a few years.

“If the U-Visa is granted prior to his departure, he may be able to remain in the U.S. as I will file a motion to reopen,” Moreno said in an e-mail. “If it is granted after he has to leave the U.S., then he may be allowed to re-enter the U.S. with the U-Visa.”

In addition, the voluntary departure order gives attorneys handling the civil case time to complete depositions and obtain any evidence needed from Cua-Toc should he have to leave the country before the U-Visa is resolved, Moreno said.

Herb Wells of Perry, one of the attorneys representing Cua-Toc on the civil case, and Kelly Burke, a Warner Robins attorney representing Erick and Sonia Cervantes, previously have said taped depositions with Cua-Toc are expected to be taken while he is in Lumpkin. Also, Burke has said he doesn’t expect a U-Visa to be granted.

Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig has placed the criminal case on the back burner pending the ICE outcome, having noted he can always take the case before a grand jury if desired.

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