Former Applebee’s manager ‘in shock’ after DEO takes $5K lotto prize

Make Ends Meet presents evidence that convinces state to pay him back

When Michael Everett walked into the Publix supermarket in Lake Buena Vista this past Monday night, he never imagined he would hit it big on a “Monopoly Doubler” lottery ticket to the tune of $5,000. The next day, he went to the lottery office in Altamonte Springs imagining what he would do with the money, only to learn the Department of Economic Opportunity had laid claim to his cash prize.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – When Michael Everett walked into the Publix supermarket in Lake Buena Vista this past Monday night, he never imagined he would hit it big on a “Monopoly Doubler” lottery ticket to the tune of $5,000.

The bartender and former Applebee’s manager was set to go on vacation, so the timing of a big cash prize on a single-ticket purchase was almost too good to be true.

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The next day, he went to the lottery office in Altamonte Springs imagining what he would do with the money, only to learn the Department of Economic Opportunity had laid claim to his cash prize.

“And the guy (lottery employee) told me ‘Listen, we want to pay you, but we can’t,’” Everett recalled. “There’s a hold on it from the DEO.”

Everett told News 6 he quickly logged into his DEO account “for the first time in two years” and was surprised to see this notation: “You were paid benefits you were not eligible to receive.”

Everett was laid off from a manager-in-training position with Applebee’s on March 16, 2020.

According to a letter presented to WKMG-TV by the company’s managing director, Everett was not “called back for rehire until September 25, 2020.”

The dates coincide with the weeks disputed by the DEO.

According to Everett’s Florida DEO account, he filed for and was paid roughly $4,300 in state and federal benefits from April 22, 2020 to May 15, 2020.

But his account now shows the payments covering that five-week period as “disqualified,” which is why the DEO garnished his lotto winnings.

“I was in shock,” Everett said. “I really had no idea what to say, what to do, I just went out to my car and sat there for about an hour.”

Make Ends Meet presented the dismissal letter provided by the Applebee’s managing director to the DEO, along with Everett’s benefits payment history.

The dates of unemployment coincide with the weeks he collected jobless benefits.

The DEO team reviewed the records Friday and determined the lottery funds should be reimbursed.

Everett sent an email to News 6 that read in part:

”They called. They told me to submit my certification questions on my DEO account. I just did. She said that the Lottery hasn’t sent them money yet and that she will let them know that this is resolved. She said I will get the full amount and there are no fees from the DEO.”

Everett said he should get the money in about one month.


If you have an unemployment or another DEO issue, email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com or text the words “make ends meet” along with your issue and a screenshot of your DEO account to 407-676-7428.

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About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.