A New Hampshire Lottery Winner Is Trying To Remain Anonymous
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Tomorrow, a New Hampshire woman will ask a judge to let her cross her name off the back of a $560 million winning lottery ticket. It's not that she doesn't want the money. She definitely wants the money. She's just trying to avoid what comes with the sudden wealth. New Hampshire Public Radio's Todd Bookman has the story.
TODD BOOKMAN, BYLINE: It was the seventh-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Big money tonight - across the country, it's America's favorite jackpot game. Get ready, everybody. This is Powerball.
BOOKMAN: The January 6 Powerball drawing had just one winning ticket. It was sold in Merrimack, N.H. But rather than come forward and claim the half-billion-dollar prize, pose with the oversized check, the winner instead has filed a lawsuit requesting that she get to stay out of the spotlight. The problem is the woman, who's identified in court papers only as Jane Doe, followed the directions on the state lottery commission's website. Those directions say, sign the back of the ticket.
BILL ZORN: Well, if you sign the back of the ticket, under New Hampshire law, the name is public knowledge. And then what happens is you become a target.
BOOKMAN: This is Bill Zorn, a Manchester, N.H., lawyer who specializes in working with lottery winners. He says there are countless stories of sudden millionaires falling victim to bad actors, financial exploitation scams, threats of violence. This is what Jane Doe is trying to prevent. She's asking the court to let her basically erase her name from the back of the ticket and write in something else, a kind of workaround.
ZORN: So the way around it is to create a trust.
BOOKMAN: Jane Doe wants to create a trust that would essentially collect the money for her. The name of the trust becomes public record, but the person it's linked to remains anonymous. This is a perfectly legal maneuver, but Zorn says the state lottery commission has strict rules about altering an already-signed ticket.
ZORN: Once the name is written on the back, you can't change the back of the ticket. Otherwise it becomes void.
BOOKMAN: Void is not a word you want to hear when you're talking about $560 million. While it may be hard to generate too much sympathy for Jane Doe, consider what's happening to Sam Safa. Sam Safa owns the New Hampshire convenience store that sold Jane Doe her winning ticket. He got a $75,000 bonus. Even he is now getting hounded for money.
SAM SAFA: I've been getting calls from as far as Alabama, Tennessee, California - people from all over the country. And I'm not even the winner, so I can only imagine how many phone calls this lady will be getting.
BOOKMAN: As he puts it, the leeches are coming out. For NPR News, I'm Todd Bookman in Concord, N.H.
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