$26M Lotto Ticket's Likely Fate Is the Stuff of Nightmares

Calif. convenience store worker says the winner threw her ticket in wash by mistake
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2021 9:47 AM CDT
Updated May 16, 2021 12:00 PM CDT
$26M Lotto Ticket May Have Been Destroyed in Wash
Always check your pockets.   (Pexels/RODNAE Productions)

The next time you kick yourself for leaving a pen or stick of gum in your pants pocket before throwing the laundry in the wash, take comfort that you're not this woman, a regular at a California convenience store who apparently now has the dubious distinction of being the lottery winner that never was. In November, a $26 million winning SuperLotto Plus ticket was sold at an ARCO in Norwalk, though no one immediately came forward to claim it. On Wednesday, six months after the ticket was purchased, and on the eve of the deadline to claim the prize, a woman said to be known to ARCO employees at that location told the store manager she was the winner, but that she'd accidentally forgotten to take the ticket out of her pants pocket before throwing her clothes in the washing machine, per KTLA.

The deadline has now passed to claim the money, but California Lottery Center spokeswoman Cathy Johnston tells the Whittier Daily News that at least six people have turned in claims for the prize, saying they don't have their tickets. To stake such a claim, Johnston says, one has to provide "compelling substantial proof" you once had it in your possession, such as a photocopy or picture of the front and back of the ticket. The convenience store has turned over surveillance footage to lottery officials, but Johnston says that wouldn't be enough to help the woman, partly because the California Lottery Center can't be sure the footage wasn't tampered with or otherwise altered. Johnston, who notes it's rare for this kind of thing to happen with a prize this big, says lottery officials will be looking into the woman's claim. If no one is deemed the winner, the $19.7 million cash payout will be funneled back toward public education. (More lottery stories.)

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