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Powerball jackpot winner’s ‘huge mistake’: She signed the ticket

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By KATHY McCORMACK

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire woman who says she has a Powerball ticket that won a $559.7 million jackpot wants a court order allowing her to stay anonymous, saying she made a “huge mistake” in signing the ticket without consulting a lawyer first.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe, filed a complaint last week in Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua saying she signed the back of the ticket following the Jan. 6 drawing, the nation’s eighth-largest lottery jackpot. She thought she was required to do so as directed by information on the state lottery commission’s website.

Under New Hampshire law, a lottery winner’s name, town and prize amount are public information. But after the woman contacted a lawyer, she learned that she could have shielded her identity by instead writing the name of a trust.

The woman hasn’t turned in her ticket yet, but she showed lottery officials a photocopy of the front. She said lottery officials told her they would be compelled to disclose her identity if someone filed a Right to Know request. Her lawyers argue her privacy interest outweighs the insignificant public interest in disclosing her name.

“While we respect this player’s desire to remain anonymous, state statutes and lottery rules clearly dictate protocols,” New Hampshire Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre said in a statement. Lottery officials consulted with state lawyers and said they must process the winning ticket “like any other,” he said.

The woman described herself as a life-long New Hampshire resident and “engaged community member.”

“She wishes to continue this work and the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars,” the complaint said. “She wishes to remain in New Hampshire and give back to the state and community that has given so much to her.”

The filing says she has set up a trust and plans to contribute a portion of her winnings to charity.

William Shaheen, whose law firm is representing the woman, had written a blog post shortly after the drawing urging the winner not to sign the ticket immediately because of the confidentiality rules.

New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that allows trusts to anonymously claim lottery prizes. In 2016, a New Hampshire family that won a $487 million Powerball jackpot remained anonymous as lawyers for their trust claimed it.

The single ticket for the Jan. 6 jackpot was sold at Reeds Ferry Market in Merrimack, N.H.

The previous day, a single Mega Millions ticket sold in Florida won $451 million. The winner of that jackpot — 20-year-old Shane Missler — came forward after a week.

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Woman Says She Won $600 Million Jackpot But ‘Huge Mistake’ Leaves Prize Unclaimed

Sam Safa, of Merrimack, N.H., owns Reeds Ferry Market, where last month’s winning Powerball ticket was sold. The prize remains unclaimed, however, as the woman who says she won wants her name kept private. Steven Senne/AP hide caption

Sam Safa, of Merrimack, N.H., owns Reeds Ferry Market, where last month’s winning Powerball ticket was sold. The prize remains unclaimed, however, as the woman who says she won wants her name kept private.

One month after a New Hampshire woman says she chose all six correct numbers for the lone $559.7 million Powerball grand prize, she has yet to turn in the ticket and the money is lying unclaimed. It’s not that she doesn’t want it. She just doesn’t want the public to know she won it.

The woman says she signed the ticket after the Jan. 6 drawing, the nation’s eighth biggest, reports The Associated Press. She says she was just following the instructions on the ticket and on the state lottery website. But a complaint filed last week in Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua, N.H., says that was a “huge mistake.” And the woman, identified for now as Jane Doe, wants a court order to allow her to collect her winnings anonymously.

Maura McCann, a spokeswoman with the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, tells NPR that the state’s Right to Know law allows them to reveal the identity of the person whose name is written on the ticket. But a loophole would let the winner’s identity be shielded if the name of a trust is written on the back of the ticket instead. The trustee’s name would then be the one to be released, and that could be anybody, including a friend or a lawyer, McCann says.

But now that the woman has already signed the ticket, it appears to be too late to have a trust collect the winnings.

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Steven Gordon, the woman’s attorney, asked if she could white out her name and replace it with the name of a trust, reports The Union Leader, but lottery officials told her any change would invalidate the ticket and she’d lose her winnings.

“The New Hampshire Lottery understands that winning a $560 million Powerball jackpot is a life-changing occurrence,” New Hampshire Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre said in a statement. “While we respect this player’s desire to remain anonymous, state statutes and lottery rules clearly dictate protocols.”

In the complaint, Gordon argues that privacy is deeply important to the longtime New Hampshire resident, who wants to use the trust to give a portion of her winnings to charity while remaining “a silent witness to these good works,” reports The Union Leader.

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Gordon calls her “an engaged community member” who “wishes to continue this work and [keep] the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars.”

His firm says it also represented another Powerball winner who won a $487 million prize in 2016 but remained anonymous by claiming the prize through the “Robin Egg 2016 Nominee Trust,” with his lawyer serving as its trustee.

In a blog on the law firm’s website, posted two days after the 2018 drawing, attorney William Shaheen advised the latest winner not to sign the ticket.

“Once you are outed, it can be overwhelming,” Shaheen wrote. “If you like your life and you like your friends, choose anonymity. If you don’t, things will change.”

New Hampshire lottery rules state unclaimed Powerball prizes expire after one year.

The woman says she made a mistake signing her name to the ticket and is seeking a court order to allow her to collect the winnings anonymously. ]]>