DES MOINES --- An already weird story took another bizarre twist Thursday when representatives for a trust based in Belize withdrew a claim for a multi-million-dollar lottery jackpot.
The unknown winner is walking away from a $7.5 million after-tax cash payout.
"This has been and continues to be the strangest situation that we can recall in the 26-year history of our lottery," said Terry Rich, the Iowa Lottery's chief operating officer.
"We were excited when the Hot Lotto jackpot-winning ticket was presented in December and we were hopeful that we'd soon be paying out the big prize to the lucky winner. That has not happened."
Instead, the jackpot claim made last month by New York attorney Crawford Shaw, 76, on behalf of Hexham Investments Trust of Bedford, N.Y., was withdrawn in a letter provided by the Des Moines Davis Brown law firm shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday.
It's potentially the end to a 13-month saga that began when the winning Hot Lotto jackpot ticket was bought by an unidentified person on December 2010.
Meanwhile Thursday, the Iowa Attorney General's Office and the state Division of Criminal Investigation issued a joint statement indicating that they will continue probing the case "in order to ensure the integrity of the lottery and to determine whether those involved complied with state law."
Officials declined further comment at this time.
Iowa Lottery officials had set a 3 p.m. Friday deadline for attorneys representing Hexham - a corporation in the country of Belize - to provide basic information about who bought the winning ticket and some of the circumstances surrounding the year-long wait for the signed ticket to be turned in.
Lottery officials wanted to determine if was legally purchased, legally possessed and legally presented.
Rich said lottery officials remained in contact with Brown Davis lawyers throughout the week and received a letter from the attorneys on Wednesday specifying that if the jackpot were to be paid to the trust, all of the winnings would be donated to charity.
However, lottery officials declined to pay the prize because of remaining concerns.
As of Thursday, lottery officials said they had not received the information they needed to be able to pay the prize winnings and the withdrawal formally ended Hexham's claim to the money.
That means that $10.7 million will be divided among the multi-state game's 15 jurisdictions with Iowa's share being about $1.3 million.
Rich said that money will go into an unclaimed prize pool and offered to Iowa players in a format yet to be determined.
"The winning ticket was signed by a trustee on behalf of Hexham Investments Trust, but no member of the trust was present when the ticket was brought to the lottery by two lawyers on Dec. 29," Rich said.
"We were ready to write the check at 3 o'clock," added Rich, but Thursday's withdrawal closed the books on the Lottery's role in a story that he called nothing short of "amazing."
During his conversations with lottery officials, Shaw said that he was not a beneficiary of Hexham Investments Trust, only its lawyer and trustee. He also specified that he was not the person who purchased the winning ticket in Des Moines, and that he ultimately did not know the identity of the winner or winners, Rich said.
The winning Hot Lotto ticket was purchased on Dec. 23, 2010, at a QuikTrip in Des Moines. With less than two hours remaining before the ticket was slated to expire, Shaw turned it in last Dec. 29 on behalf of Hexham Investments, which at that time had an estimated value of $7.53 million in a lump-sum payment after state and federal taxes were assessed or in annual payments of $400,000 for 25 years.
Shaw and attorneys from the Des Moines law firm met Jan. 17 with Iowa Lottery officials, but Shaw would not identify who bought the ticket and who was part of Hexham Investments, lottery officials said.