A judge on Monday gave Pedro Quezada some advice and a warning when he appeared in court in a sweatshirt and sneakers.
"There are going to be a lot of people who are going to ask you to invest in things because of your good fortune," state Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela told Quezada, "but investing in your children is the wisest investment you can make."
The 44-year-old Quezada, clad in a gray sweatshirt, dark blue pants and sneakers, used a Spanish translator during the court hearing and told Caposela that the three children would be living with him from now on. The children's mother didn't attend the hearing. She lives out of state, Caposela said, but didn't say where.
Quezada left the courthouse without commenting, but his lawyer, Paul Fernandez, said his client wanted to put the matter behind him and move on with his life.
"He plans to do what's conservative, he plans to do what's right for his children," said Fernandez, whose law offices are in Paterson. "He's a family man."
When asked about reports that Quezada had offered to pay his neighbors' rents for a month or two, Fernandez said that was "just a rumor," but didn't elaborate.
Several neighbors on the short, dead-end block that sits between a highway and rubble-strewn lot, said Monday they had only heard of the alleged offer through news reports. David Guzman said he'd texted his landlord when heard the news but that the landlord hadn't heard anything.
"If my landlord didn't even know, then I highly doubt it, it's probably just a bunch of publicity to keep the whole thing going," the 22-year-old Guzman said.
Nevertheless, he had a wad of bills in his pocket and was waiting till the 5th of the month, his normal due date for rent, before he paid the $825 for the apartment in the building next door to Quezada.
Quezada was the lone winner of the March 23 Powerball drawing and claimed a lump-sum payment last week worth $221 million, or about $152 million after taxes. The immigrant from the Dominican Republic owned a bodega that his son and another man recently took over in Passaic, a blue-collar city 15 miles northwest of New York City. Neighbors described him as hardworking and said he would regularly work from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the store.
In court Monday, Caposela said Quezada's last child support payment was in August 2011; prior to that he had last paid in July 2009. He was obligated to pay $141 per week to the mother of the children. That obligation will continue, Caposela said, though either parent could seek a modification.
Associated Press writer Samantha Henry in Passaic contributed to this story.