Investigators following new leads in Iowa Hot Lotto mystery

2013-07-24T14:40:00Z Investigators following new leads in Iowa Hot Lotto mysteryBy JAMES Q. LYNCH, Lee-Gazette Des Moines Bureau Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

CEDAR RAPIDS --- It’s not the “aha moment,” but state investigators are pursuing new leads in the case of a $7.5 million Hot Lotto winning ticket that has never been claimed.

There is “nothing great and new,” Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge Patrick Townsend said Wednesday, “but I will tell you that a-year-and-a-half into it, it is not dead.”

A Hot Lotto ticket with an after-tax value of $7.5 million was drawn by the Iowa Lottery Dec. 29, 2010. A New York attorney acting on behalf of a Belize-based investment trust filed paperwork for the prize less than two hours before the jackpot was slated to expire. That claim was withdrawn after Lottery officials refused to pay the prize because of questions about the ticket and its ownership.

The Hot Lotto mystery was not a cold case, Townsend said, but “there was not a whole lot of activity” in recent months. However, the DCI recently received “a couple of new things” it is working through “to see if it can take us someplace,” Townsend said.

“Just like any investigation, when you have new leads come in you do get optimistic,” he said Wednesday. “The information we have is not the ‘aha moment’ to say this is the one we’ve been waiting for. It is good information and it’s stuff we’re taking further with the hope that it becomes that.”

Townsend wouldn’t reveal the source of the new information except to say it’s a combination of leads from Iowa and beyond.

“There’s potential for both of those roads coming back together,” he said. The information is not leading the DCI in totally new directions. “It’s good information within the structure of what we’ve been looking at.”

The most popular theory about the ticket is that the winner was involved in some illegal activity and tried to “sell” the ticket to someone else to claim the jackpot, Iowa Lottery Vice President Mary Neubauer said.

Another possibility is that it was a syndicate of people from outside the U.S. who bought the winning ticket but couldn’t redeem it, so it was illegally sold for more than the $1 ticket was worth, Lottery Director Terry Rich said.

In either case, the Lottery would not pay the prize because Iowa law disallows lottery ticket scalping, Rich said.

Townsend laughed at – but didn’t reject -- the suggestion that the case would make the basis for a good novel.

“It has the makings for it,” he said. “But I don’t have all of the story. You could finish it in so many ways … but it would be nice to have the real (ending) … to understand what happened “from A to Z instead of getting to M or N and saying. ‘OK, we can only surmise the rest of it or finish it however you would like it.’”

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