$560m Powerball winner is a NH woman - and she's fighting in court to stay anonymous

Sunday News Correspondent
February 03. 2018 11:30PM
Reeds Ferry Market in Merrimack sold the winning $559.7 million Powerball ticket last month. Now the unidentified winner is taking New Hampshire Lottery to court to stay anonymous. (Courtesy)

MERRIMACK - Newly filed court records show a local woman won the $560 million Powerball ticket sold last month in Merrimack but is now trying to keep her identity anonymous - even though she already signed the back of the winning ticket - due to safety and other concerns.

"She has described the signing as 'a huge mistake,'" according to court records filed by her legal counsel at Hillsborough County Superior Court South in Nashua.

The woman, identified in court documents only as Jane Doe, asked that her identity remain a secret even though existing New Hampshire Lottery Commission rules require a winner sign the back of a winning ticket before being able to claim the prize. However, had the ticket been signed in the name of a trust, she could have maintained her privacy.

Her attorney said she deeply values her privacy and announcing her name could lead to safety issues.

"She is a longtime resident of New Hampshire and is an engaged community member," wrote attorney Steven Gordon from the Shaheen and Gordon law firm. "She wishes to continue this work and the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars."

When the winning numbers were first announced, she didn't believe she had won.

"She read and reread and reread them again; there was a match," her attorney said. "The immediate emotions were raw and conflicting - awe, disbelief and an unexpected one: panic about how to protect a piece of paper that is most often casually thrown away along with the whimsical hope of being a winner."

According to Gordon, the winner plans to remain in New Hampshire and distribute her winnings carefully.

"She intends to contribute a portion of her winnings to a charitable foundation so that they may do good in the world. She wishes to be a silent witness to these good works, far from the glare and misfortune that has often fallen upon other lottery winners," he wrote in court records.

According to the court filing, the woman went to the lottery's website and read the instructions on the back of her winning ticket. Following the commission's instructions, she printed her name and other information on the back of the ticket, secured it in a safe place and sought an attorney.

"After completing and signing the ticket, Ms. Doe met with counsel and learned for the first time that a trust could sign for and collect the winnings, thus preserving her privacy," he said, maintaining that previous winners have been the victims of violence, threats, harassment, scams and unwanted solicitation.

Her attorney asked if she could "white out" her name in front of lottery officials and replace it with the trust, but was told any alteration would invalidate the ticket and she'd lose $560 million.

She is asking that her name, address and other identifying information remain exempt from disclosure, or, as an alternative, that she be permitted to white out her name, address, phone number and signature from the back of the ticket and replace that information with the trust details.

New Hampshire Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre said in response to the complaint that he understands that winning Powerball is a life-changing event. But he said procedures are in place for the security and integrity of the lottery.

"While we respect this player's desire to remain anonymous, state statutes and lottery rules clearly dictate protocols," he said after consulting with the state Attorney General's office.

The $559.7 million winning Powerball ticket was sold last month at Reed's Ferry Market in Merrimack. It is New Hampshire's second Powerball jackpot winner in the past year and a half, and is the sixth-largest Powerball jackpot on record and the seventh-largest jackpot overall. Lottery officials confirmed the ticket is a winner.

A court clerk said Friday that a hearing has been set for Feb. 21 to address Doe's request for injunctive relief. The woman's name is subject to the state's Right-to-Know law.

Two options are available to the winner - take a lump-sum cash option of about $358.5 million, or an annuity payment over 30 years with an estimated $8 million initial payment that would increase each year.

Using a 5 percent rate, the woman is missing out on about $50,000 in interest every day the ticket is not claimed.

Reed's Ferry Market is set to receive $75,000 for selling the winning ticket, which has not yet been submitted to the commission.


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