A Nicaraguan immigrant who won a $5.3 million lottery jackpot got more good news Wednesday as immigration officials reversed themselves and granted his application for political asylum.
Justo Ricardo Somarriba, along with his wife and three children, had faced the prospect of having to take the money back to Nicaragua if the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service backed a State Department finding that his political asylum claim was frivolous.But Wednesday INS district director Perry Rivkind said he personally had reviewed the case and granted the asylum.
"This has nothing to do with the jackpot," Rivkind said. "He was a teacher in the government education department, and he resisted propagandizing on behalf of the Sandinista Marxist government."
That could subject him to political persecution if he returned to his homeland, Rivkind said.
Even if he hadn't been granted asylum, state lottery officials said he still would have gotten his half of last week's $10.6 million Lotto jackpot.
"Anybody who wins keeps the money," said Ed George, a lottery spokesman in Tallahassee. In California, an illegal Mexican immigrant was deported - with his money - after winning the lottery in that state.