Monday, August 20, 2018
Business

Powerball winner seeks in court to keep her identity secret

PREVIOUS STORY: All she has to do to collect a $560 million lotto jackpot is make her name public. She refuses.

The winning numbers triple-checked and the lottery ticket signed, the New Hampshire woman knew her life was about to change in a positive way - except for one petrifying thing.

As the winner of last month’s $560 million Powerball lottery, she would soon be the world’s newest owner of a nine-digit bank account.

But because of lottery rules, everyone in the world would know about it - neighbors, old high school friends, con artists, criminals.

Now the woman is asking a judge to let her keep the cash - and remain anonymous.

In court on Tuesday, the woman’s attorney asked a judge to essentially grant a do-over, according to the New Hampshire Union-Leader. The woman wants to sign the back of the ticket with the name of an anonymous trust, keeping her identity a secret.

The winner is not trying to amend the laws of New Hampshire or the rules of the lottery, her attorney said. She was seeking a narrow ruling from the judge to guarantee her privacy rights.

From the archives: Abraham Shakespeare won the lottery, then lost it all

Every day the case remains unresolved, the lottery winner loses about $14,000 in interest. The total amount lost since the winning numbers were picked on Jan. 6 is quickly approaching the half-million-dollar mark.

"We come to the court today in a Catch-22 . . . Not surprisingly, Ms. Doe would like to cash her ticket," attorney Steven Gordon, who represents the winner, told the judge. "The ticket and the prize sits in limbo."

It is unclear when Judge Charles Temple will rule on the case.

On one side of the case are lottery officials who say the integrity of the games depends on the public identification of winners as a protection against fraud and malfeasance. A local woman holding up a giant check while cameras flash and reporters scrawl also happens to be a powerful marketing tool.

On the other side is a woman suddenly faced with a life-changing stroke of luck who, court documents say, wishes to live "far from the glare and misfortune that has often fallen upon other lottery winners."

The law doesn’t appear to be on her side.

As attorneys for the state and the lottery commission argued in court on Tuesday, New Hampshire lottery rules require the winner’s name, town and amount won be available for public information, in accordance with open-records laws.

"Petitioner’s understandable yearning for normalcy after entering a lottery to win hundreds of millions of dollars is not a sufficient basis to shut the public out of the business of government," Assistant Attorney General John Conforti wrote in court documents.

The state allows people to form an anonymous trust, NewHampshire.com reported, but it’s a moot point for the woman - she signed her name on the back of the ticket shortly after winning, and altering the signature would nullify the ticket.

In a statement, New Hampshire lottery executive director Charlie McIntyre said that the commission consulted with the state’s attorney general’s office and that the Powerball winner must abide by the disclosure laws "like any other."

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

In court documents, the lottery winner asked a judge to allow the lottery winnings to be paid to a designated trust that keeps her anonymous. But lottery officials have argued that even if the cash goes into a trust, the ticket will have to be submitted in its original form - complete with the ticket buyer’s name and home town.

Read More: The mother of murdered lottery winner Abraham Shakespeare’s son just won $1 million

Other lottery winners have realized that every ticket buyer’s fantasy can quickly morph into a nightmare. There are myriad self-inflicted problems that can befall a person who suddenly comes into great wealth. One bought a water park, for example. Several others have gambled their winnings away, including a two-time lottery winner who ended up living in a trailer.

Billie Bob Harrell Jr., who won $31 million in 1997, told his financial adviser shortly before his suicide that "winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me."

And there are numerous examples of people who’ve tried to swindle lottery winners out of their newly acquired cash - or take the money by force.

In November 2015, Craigory Burch Jr. matched all five numbers in the Georgia Fantasy 5 drawing and won a $434,272 jackpot, The Washington Post reported.

Two months later, police said, Burch was killed in his home by seven masked men who kicked in his front door. His family members said the public announcement of the lottery winnings had made him a target.

"When they came in, he said: ‘Don’t do it, bro. Don’t do it in front of my kids. Please don’t do it in front of my kids and old lady,’ " his girlfriend, Jasmine Hendricks, told WALB-TV at the time. "He said, ‘I’ll give you my bank card.’ "

Abraham Shakespeare won a $30 million lottery prize in 2006. Two years later, he was approached by Dorice "Dee Dee" Moore, who said she was writing a book about how people were taking advantage of him. She soon became his financial adviser and slowly siphoned away his money, according to Fox News.

"She got every bit of his money," Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner said in closing arguments. "He found out about it and threatened to kill her. She killed him first."

Remaining anonymous can alleviate some of those problems, according to Shaheen & Gordon, the law firm that is representing the New Hampshire Powerball winner. It offered advice in a blog post shortly after the winning ticket was announced - and before the winner was its client.

"Once you are outed, it can be overwhelming," lawyer William Shaheen said in the post. "If you like your life and you like your friends, choose anonymity. If you don’t, things will change. People will look at you differently and treat you differently."

The winner’s legal team expounded on that thought - in dire terms - in an analysis from an accountant.

"In my experience, the publication of these individuals’ identities often leads to disastrous outcomes, including theft, ransom and harassment," wrote David Desmarais, a certified public accountant, in court documents obtained by the Union Leader newspaper.

"Many clients are forced to hire professional security teams to accompany their children on trips out of the country," he added. "The dangers of having their identities publicized can force these high-wealth individuals to leave their communities permanently, change their identities, go into hiding and maintain around the clock security."

Comments
TECO customers won’t pay for hurricane recovery costs

TECO customers won’t pay for hurricane recovery costs

It’s official — Tampa Electric Co. customers won’t be paying for hurricane recovery costs. State regulators on Monday unanimously approved the utility’s request to use savings under the new federal tax law to cover hurricane-related costs."The ratepa...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Red Tide or not, Pinellas County confident it will reach record tourism tax dollars

Red Tide or not, Pinellas County confident it will reach record tourism tax dollars

Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater, Pinellas County’s tourism arm, is on par to surpass the $54.7 million it collected in bed tax money last fiscal year. Even if a bout of Red Tide hits the beaches hard. It would be the highest amount of money the count...
Published: 08/20/18
Canada’s Flair Airlines to offer new nonstop service between Winnipeg and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport

Canada’s Flair Airlines to offer new nonstop service between Winnipeg and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport

CLEARWATER — Canada-based Flair Airlines on Monday said it will launch nonstop flights between Winnipeg and six Sunbelt destinations, including St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport."Having brought low-fare service to 10 Canadian cities this summ...
Published: 08/20/18

Hernando Business Digest for Aug. 24

Business digestBrieflyCHICK DAYS AT TRACTOR SUPPLY: Tractor Supply, 18741 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, is celebrating Chick Days now through Sept. 23. Although some may associate springtime with starting a flock, experts agree that late summer is a gre...
Published: 08/20/18
Tampa Bay, state gas prices down 5 cents over the week

Tampa Bay, state gas prices down 5 cents over the week

Summer is winding down, and so are gas prices. Florida pump prices averaged $2.76 per gallon Monday, down five cents over the week. That’s just ahead of Tampa Bay’s $2.72 per gallon average, which was also down five cents since last week according to...
Published: 08/20/18
PepsiCo buys Israel’s SodaStream for $3.2 billion

PepsiCo buys Israel’s SodaStream for $3.2 billion

JERUSALEM — Beverage giant PepsiCo on Monday purchased Israel’s fizzy drink maker SodaStream for $3.2 billion, a boon for a company that has enjoyed a resurgence after being targeted by anti-Israel boycotters in the past. PepsiCo said it was acquirin...
Published: 08/20/18
Volkswagen scam: How will Florida spend its windfall from the diesel-gate settlement

Volkswagen scam: How will Florida spend its windfall from the diesel-gate settlement

The state has a challenge: How to spend a windfall from the Volkswagen diesel-gate scandal. The German manufacturer agreed to pay $2 billion to promote zero-emission vehicles and spend billions more to buy back or modify most of the cars. Nearly $3 b...
Published: 08/20/18
Dear Penny: How can I tell my boss to stop making fun of my old car?

Dear Penny: How can I tell my boss to stop making fun of my old car?

Dear Penny,I’m a recent college grad who’s been working an entry-level job for the past year. I only make about $33,000 a year, but I’m doing OK. I’m able to pay my bills without taking on more debt. One of the reasons I’m able to do so is that I dri...
Published: 08/17/18
Updated: 08/19/18
Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

ST. PETERSBURG — A political newcomer seeking a Pinellas County Commission seat has faced accusations of physical abuse and stalking from her former fiance, who twice sought court-ordered protection from her.Both allegations came after Democrat Amy K...
Published: 08/17/18
Tampa Bay’s seventh renovated Winn-Dixie opens in Hernando County

Tampa Bay’s seventh renovated Winn-Dixie opens in Hernando County

SPRING HILL — The latest Winn-Dixie remodel opened in Hernando County on Thursday.This marks the seventh remodeled Winn-Dixie parent company Southeastern Grocers has unveiled in Tampa Bay this year. The chain promised renovations following emerging f...
Published: 08/17/18