Winner of $560M lottery says she made a 'huge mistake'

Lottery balls
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A New Hampshire woman who bought a Powerball ticket worth $560 million last month is fighting to remain anonymous, saying in a lawsuit that releasing her name would "constitute a significant invasion of her privacy."

The woman filed suit against the New Hampshire Lottery Commission under the pseudonym Jane Doe. She says she made a "huge mistake" when she signed her real name on the back of the ticket before contacting a lawyer, who told her she could have remained anonymous had she established a trust and then had a trustee sign the ticket.

The lawsuit, filed last week, describes the woman as an "engaged community member." 

"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," the complaint said. It adds that she plans on remaining in New Hampshire and giving back "to the state and community that has given so much to her."

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The woman is represented by the law firm of Shaheen and Gordon. William Shaheen wrote a blogpost Jan. 8, two days after the drawing, that shines a spotlight on the difficulties the lawsuit might face.

“Don’t sign that back of the ticket because if you sign it you lost confidentiality,” he says. “It becomes public, and you lost the option of staying anonymous.”

The woman has not yet claimed the prize, and the lawsuit says the fight for her anonymity is costing her a fortune in interest.

The New Hampshire Lottery, however, is standing firm.

“The New Hampshire Lottery understands that winning a $560 million Powerball jackpot is a life-changing occurrence," Charlie McIntyre, the New Hampshire Lottery's executive director, said in a statement. "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 he understands the winner's desire to keep her name out of the media. But he said the state attorney general's office has advised him that "the lottery must proceed in accordance its rules and by state law in processing this claim like any other.” 

Jane Doe won the Powerball drawing Jan. 6. The ticket was bought at Reeds Ferry Market, a modest convenience store in Merrimack, N.H. The owner even came out a winner, claiming a $75,000 prize for selling the lucky ducat.

"Can you believe someone just walked into my store and won?!" Safa told USA TODAY last month. "Most of my customers are local, and I'm hoping it's someone local. But whoever it is, congratulations to them."

The lawsuit, however, says Jane Doe now joins a small demographic of big jackpot winners that "has historically been victimized by the unscrupulous." The lawsuit even raises the issue of the opioid crisis in stating that New Hampshire, "despite it's bucolic beauty ... is not immune to crime."

"The disclosure of Ms. Doe's identifying information would constitute an invasion of privacy because the limited public interest in disclosure is far outweighed by Ms. Doe's interest in remaining anonymous," the lawsuit states.