A New Hampshire woman who won a $560 million Powerball jackpot last month is suing state lottery officials for the right to remain anonymous when she collects her windfall.
In a civil complaint filed Jan. 29 against the New Hampshire Lottery Commission in state court, lawyers for the plaintiff, identified as Jane Doe, said she “deeply values her privacy” and wants to support charitable causes “far from the glare and misfortune that has often fallen upon other lottery ‘winners.’ ”
The complaint says the woman visited the commission’s website when she realized she had won and followed the agency’s instructions for redeeming her prize, signing the back of the ticket and printing her address and phone number.
But after speaking with a lawyer, the complaint says, Doe realized she could have maintained her privacy if a trustee had signed the ticket instead.
She has created a trust and wants the state to either withhold her name from public disclosure or replace her identifying information with that of the trust. However, the complaint says, the commission has informed her that any alteration of the ticket will make it invalid.
“Without the ticket being redeemed, interest is being lost to the petitioner on a daily basis,” the complaint says. “The ticket needs to be redeemed within one year. Time is of the essence.”
In a statement, the state lottery’s executive director, Charlie McIntyre, said his agency understands that winning such a large sum is a “life-changing occurrence.”
“Having awarded numerous Powerball jackpots over the years, we also understand that the procedures in place for prize claimants are critically important for the security and integrity of the lottery, our players, and our games,” McIntyre said. “While we respect this player’s desire to remain anonymous, state statutes and lottery rules clearly dictate protocols. After consulting with the New Hampshire attorney general’s office on this matter, we have been advised that the lottery must proceed in accordance with its rules and by state law in processing this claim like any other.”
Steven M. Gordon, a lawyer for Doe, declined to comment beyond the civil filing, except to say in an e-mail that he and his client are speaking with the state attorney general’s office about the matter.
Gordon wrote in the filing that Doe expects the commission to ask her to appear at a public event when she accepts the prize, “complete with oversized check.” If a trust is certified as the recipient, however, “the trustee . . . could and would attend the public event.”
The complaint references the hardships faced by other lottery winners who have been publicly identified, including Chicopee, Mass., resident Mavis L. Wanczyk, who won a $758.7 million jackpot last August.
Wanczyk, the complaint says, “required police surveillance at her home after media and other individuals arrived in her neighborhood, knocking on doors and harassing neighbors in an attempt to locate her.”
That ordeal was tame by comparison.
Among the cases cited in the civil complaint are a Georgia man who won $434,272 in 2016, only to be murdered when gunmen shot through his door and demanded the money; a Florida man who was swindled out of his winnings in 2009 and killed by the scammer, who buried him in her backyard; a scoundrel who bilked a $1.1 million winner in the United Kingdom in 2005; a 2002 Powerball winner who was the victim of “numerous thefts” totaling more than $700,000; and a 1984 winner in Illinois who received bomb threats.
“There are countless stories of other lottery winners who have suffered significantly after receiving their money, many of which could have been avoided if the winners’ identities had not been published,” the complaint says.