Who Owns a Disputed $260,000 Mega Millions Lottery Ticket?

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A man holds a bundle of Mega Millions lottery tickets that he purchased in San Francisco, California on March 6, 2007.

Stories surrounding the lottery seem to be almost as rich in drama as the prize money on offer.

The latest example comes to us courtesy of Mountain View in Santa Clara County, Calif.. An existing million-dollar lottery winner, Emily Leach, recently returned to the scene of her triumph at a convenience store, where she had become something of a local celebrity. Indeed, it wasn’t out of character for Leach to perform random acts of generosity like simply handing out money, and when you’ve benefited from such good fortune, who’s to say how to spend your winnings?

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But here’s where the waters get muddy: it’s been alleged that when Leach handed out of a $100 bill to a man in the store, she also included a Mega Millions ticket which — and you so know what’s coming — happened to result in a $260,000 prize.

The unidentified man has since returned to the store to say he had the ticket (though as of Monday, the prize hadn’t been claimed), and in the words of Leach, to state that her good fortune has rubbed off on him. But Leach is adamant that she mistakenly gave him the ticket and wants it returned to its rightful owner. “That’s my ticket,” Leach told the Mercury News. “He knows it’s my ticket. I feel like I’m going to come off as a huge, huge bitch if I say, ‘You need to give me my ticket back.’ ”

Understandably, the state’s lottery commission’s security department is looking into the matter, and may use surveillance video to attempt to ascertain what went down. Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the commission, remarked that Leach has said, “she had the ticket in her hand and maybe it got mixed in with the money she gave this person. They’re going to look at the video and see if she’s the one actually buying the ticket. If no one else is in the picture, that puts things firmly in her favor.”

Whatever the outcome, the odds have certainly been in Leach’s favor. The lottery commission estimates that the chances of her winning $1 million in January were 1 in 1.2 million. And due to the amount of players, that worsened to 1 in 3.9 million last week. As for the combined odds on winning twice in three months? Don’t even go there.

Leach is hoping that this mystery man does “the right thing” and returns the ticket. “If he were to do that, I certainly wouldn’t take it and just walk away,” she said. As for lottery sales in the store, business is booming which goes to prove that, when all’s said and done, the house will still be the ultimate winner.

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