Valid lotto jackpot ticket surfaces before deadline

Winning ticket was presented by law firm with less than two hours remaining

DES MOINES – The mystery surrounding a winning Hot Lotto ticket worth up to nearly $14.3 million lives on.

Two attorneys from a Des Moines law firm presented the winning ticket bought on Dec. 29, 2010, at a Des Moines convenience store to Iowa Lottery officials Thursday on behalf of Hexam Investments Trust with Crawford Shaw of Bedford, N.Y., with less than two hours remaining before the ticket was set to expire and the jackpot left unclaimed.

“This was within 110 minutes of losing (at least) $10 million. How’s that? That’s cutting it pretty close,” said Terry Rich, chief executive officer of the Iowa Lottery.

No representative of the trust was present when lottery officials announced that a winning ticket with an “annuitized” value of nearly $14.3 million and a cash value of nearly $10.76 million had been verified. The potential individual winner or winners were not identified and lottery officials said no prize money has been paid out -- and will not be paid out – until they have been able to complete the security process for a jackpot win.

“This is an unusual circumstance,” Rich told reporters. “This is something we haven’t experienced since the lottery began 26 years ago.”

Attorneys Julie Johnson McLean and Beau Gamble – both of the Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts law firm – were present at a Thursday afternoon news conference to claim the jackpot prize on behalf of the Hexam Investments Trust.

“Our law firm represents the claimant who submitted the winning ticket for the Hot Lotto drawing that was held last December and also submitted the winner claim form this afternoon,” McLean said. “We’re very excited to be a part of this process. We’re delighted that the prize has been claimed. Now the Iowa Lottery will do its standard investigative protocol.”

They left without making further comment.

Steve Bogle, lottery vice president of security, said he was able to verify that the ticket was legitimate and now will conduct a thorough investigation from the point of sale to Thursday’s submission of the winning ticket as part of the standard security scrutiny that is required by the rules of the Hot Lotto game when more than half the prize-claim period for the jackpot had expired.

“Nothing like this has ever happened. Wherever the trail leads us and however long that takes, we’ll do a thorough job and complete it,” he said.

Rich said he was uncertain how long the security probe would take. The trust has up to 60 days to decide whether to claim the winning as a lump cash sum or in yearly installments. If the winner were to elect to take the annuity option, the prize would be paid out over 25 years with the annual payment being somewhere around $572,000. The federal tax withholding amount on the jackpot will be 25 percent and the state withholding in Iowa is 5 percent.

“We will find all that information out to our full satisfaction until we pay any money,” he said.

“We have not yet had the opportunity to meet with the actual winners and ask the security questions we need to have answered regarding the ticket and its purchase,” he added.

Rich said the lottery has “no reason to believe that this has any implication of any impropriety,” noting this was not the first situation where the lottery was contacted by an attorney on behalf of a client or a trust arrangement.

“We look forward to learning the details we’ve all been wondering about these many months, such as: How did the winner find out he had the jackpot-winning ticket? How long has he known he’d won? Why did he wait until the last day to turn in the ticket? Every winner’s situation is different, and it’s always fun to hear the story,” the lottery chief said.

“This was one of the biggest lottery mysteries in the country, and we know from the hundreds of contacts we received that a lot of people were worried they may have had the winning ticket and somehow misplaced it,” he added. “We hope this update today can put people’s minds at ease, and we’re glad that the winning ticket has been presented before time ran out.”

Rich noted that the annuitized value of the winning Hot Lotto ticket at the time it was purchased one year ago was more that $16.5 million, but that value at dropped by more than $2.3 million by the time the winning ticket was validated.

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