Terry Rich would love to know the story behind the winner of a lottery jackpot walking away from a ticket valued at $16.5 million.
“It’s the only time we can find anywhere in world lottery history that somebody won a major jackpot and gave it up,” Rich said Aug. 8.
Although there have been cases of people not claiming a jackpot because they lost their winning ticket, “No one has ever claimed it, had the hoopla, and then said, ‘OK, we don’t want it. Bye,’” Rich said.
However, Rich, the director of the Iowa Lottery, thinks the chances he’ll ever know the whole story are diminishing.
The mystery, which has led to discussions of a movie, began with a Hot Lotto ticket valued at up to $16.5 million that matched the grand-prize numbers drawn on Dec. 29, 2010. It wasn’t turned in until a year later — less than two hours before the jackpot was slated to expire — bearing the name of a New York attorney who was acting on behalf of a Belize-based investment trust.
The attorney ultimately withdrew his claim after Lottery officials said they would not pay the money unless he answered their questions.
Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office continue to look into whether any crimes were committed. Rich said. Spokespersons for the agencies said they had nothing new to report.
“I think if they can prove fraud they are ready to go,” Rich said. However, he thinks the odds of getting to the bottom of the case are not better than 50-50.
From his perspective, Rich said, the integrity and security of the Lottery was preserved.
“The bottom line is we kept the money,” he said.
It will give away $1 million of it at the Iowa State Fair, which starts Aug. 9.
Rich has heard several theories about the case. Although cautious not to say anything that would interfere with the investigation, he dismissed the idea the ticketholder was underage.
“I don’t believe that’s the case, based on what I know,” he said.
Another theory is the winning ticket was taken from the purchaser after he bragged about his jackpot.
“They usually have loose lips,” Rich said. “Maybe they showed it to someone (who) took the ticket and said, ‘Good-bye,’ and disposed of that person.”
Still another centers around a ticket purchased illegally through an international syndicate, with the parties walking away from the jackpot rather than answer the Lottery’s questions.
There still are a couple of people who claim the winning ticket was stolen from them. That’s not Rich’s problem.
“Under the law, as I understand it, they have to sue the guy in New York because he was the one who claimed it,” he said.
All-in-all, Rich said, it was a fun case and regardless of whether the DCI and attorney general are able to solve it, it may not be over.
Rich’s office has fielded inquiries about a movie. However, there’s nothing definite and he hasn’t given a lot of thought to who should play him.
“The ones that come to mind are Ed Asner or Robert Redford, but they’re old,” he joked. “But I guess I am too.”