Passing (up) the bucks: $1.6M in lottery prizes unclaimed in Southland
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com June 14, 2011 8:26PM
Store manager Bobby Patel hands out winnings to $10 scratch-off winner Juan Magallanez, of Blue Island, at Danny's Market Place in Blue Island, Illinois, Thursday, May, 26, 2011. A Little Lotto ticket of $475,000 was sold at the store in December, but has not yet been claimed. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Here are the largest unclaimed Illinois Lottery prizes from tickets sold in the Southland (with prize amount, game, drawing date and location sold):
$475,000: Little Lotto, Dec. 6, 2010, Danny’s Market Place, 1965 Vermont St., Blue Island
$250,000: MegaMillions, June 7, 2011, Circle K, 1400 E. Steger Road, Crete
$250,000: MegaMillions, Feb. 1, 2011, Santori Liquors, 3529 Ridge Road, Lansing
$200,000: PowerBall, Nov. 24, 2010, AM/PM, 16 E. Lincoln Highway, Frankfort
$125,000: Little Lotto, May 19, 2011, Golden Hen Pantry, 19090 S. Crawford Ave., Country Club Hills
$100,000: Millionaire Raffle, Oct. 31, 2010, Oak Forest Shell, 16702 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Forest
$75,000: Little Lotto, June 1, 2011, Mi Pueblito Mini Market, 6101 S. Kedzie Ave., Chicago
$58,333: Little Lotto, May 11, 2011, Kwik Mart, 3500 W. 63rd St., Chicago
$50,000: Little Lotto, July 20, 2010, 7-Eleven, 8100 W. 143rd St., Orland Park
$20,000: Little Lotto, April 30, 2011, Orland Liquors, 9977 W. 151st St., Orland Park
Also unclaimed are 17 winning tickets, worth $1,000 each, from Millionaire Raffles held on Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently cautioned residents about an increase in lottery scams.
“Every day, scam artists busily work the phones and mail to con people — too often seniors — into believing they’ve just won something big,” Madigan said in a news release.
Many ask consumers to wire money to the scammer to them to supposedly claim their prize. The best defense, Madigan said, is to hang up the phone or toss out the letter.
Those who think they’ve been duped should call the consumer fraud hotline at (800) 386-5438. Madigan reminded people to never give out personal information such as a bank account or Social Security number.
Updated: August 3, 2011 4:00PM
Check those coat pockets, empty the junk drawer and rifle through the glove compartment.
Somewhere out there are Illinois Lottery tickets, bought in the Southland, that are worth thousands and thousands of dollars in cash just waiting to be claimed.
In the Southland alone, $1,620,333 in prize money was unclaimed as of Tuesday, and that’s just in prizes of at least $1,000. A quick retirement might not be in the offing, but the payouts aren’t pittances either, as bills mount for many and jobs remain hard to come by in a struggling economy.
Six payouts of $100,000 or more await claimants who bought tickets locally. The largest is $475,000 in the Dec. 6 Little Lotto drawing. It was sold at Danny’s Market Place, a busy neighborhood store at 1965 Vermont St., Blue Island.
One ticket worth nearly a half-million dollars, and nobody has stepped forward to claim the prize. The mystery befuddles customers and employees of the store.
“Maybe they didn’t check it or forgot they bought a ticket,” said Juan Magallanez, who spends about $20 every week on lottery tickets at the store. “I do check every ticket I buy. I can’t believe there’s that much money unclaimed.”
Moments earlier, Magallanez, 56, cashed in an instant lottery scratch-off ticket worth $500. Not a bad return for his $10 investment.
He smiled as store manager Bobby Patel counted out the haul, one $20 bill at a time.
Patel said he has “no idea” why the big winner wouldn’t follow Magallanez’s lead and cash in promptly.
John Spizzirri, a Blue Island Park District commissioner who sometimes plays the lottery at Danny’s, wonders if the winner has a plan.
“Maybe they’re setting up something with an accountant or maybe they’re planning how to beat the tax man,” Spizzirri said.
Good luck with that. Any winning ticket worth $600 or more means an instant deduction from the winnings because lottery prizes are considered taxable income. The state withholds about 5 percent, and a prize winner in the 25 percent tax bracket for federal income tax can have that much subtracted in federal withholding.
That would leave the winner of the $475,000 ticket about $333,000.
“Still, that’s a big chunk of change,” lottery spokesman Tracy Owens said.
Another big chunk awaits someone who bought a ticket at the AM/PM store at U.S. 30 and LaGrange Road in Frankfort. More than six months ago, someone there bought a winning Powerball ticket worth $200,000.
“We’re still waiting for the winner. We were thinking it could be one of our regulars, but none of them has come in yet,” assistant manager Joe Foley said.
The ticket was for the Nov. 24 drawing, one day before Thanksgiving. That it was so close to the holiday has Foley thinking perhaps it wasn’t a regular after all.
“Maybe it was an out-of-towner who bought the ticket and didn’t know they won,” said Foley, of Matteson.
Foley, who said he never wins money in the lottery, said he wouldn’t wait six months to claim a prize if he did ever come up a winner.
“I’d be there the next day saying, ‘I want my money now,’ ” Foley said.
Unclaimed winnings go into the state’s common school fund, Owens said. About $2 million goes into the fund every month, he said.
“They’re not all real big. Most are $10 or maybe $100,” Owens said. “The biggest recent one that went to the school fund was $250,000 back in March. The ticket was sold last year at O’Hare.”
He said it’s likely the buyer was someone passing through O’Hare while traveling.
“Many times, people who win just aren’t aware. They may not think they have the winner or they don’t check it,” Owens said.
Dollars and deadlines
Lottery winnings must be claimed within one year of the drawing.
Last year, a man on Chicago’s South Side almost was taught a bitter lesson.
“While going through his tax forms from the previous year, he found a lottery ticket that was worth $9 million. It had somehow got into his files. If he had waited another week, he would have been too late and would not have won the $9 million,” Owens said.
That deadline is fast approaching for whoever bought a winning ticket at the 7-Eleven at 8100 W. 143rd St., Orland Park. The ticket worth $50,000 was for the July 20 Little Lotto drawing.
Standing outside that 7-Eleven on a recent morning, Julie Rinozzi, of Orland Park, smiled as she got her money back for her $2 instant ticket.
If she had a ticket worth $50,000, she would “come forward instantly,” she said.
“I think that’s someone who forgot to check a ticket. Or maybe it went through the washing machine. I can’t imagine having a winning ticket and not claiming it. I’d be happy to win $50,” said Rinozzi, 41.
Inside the store, manager Ruk Patel and wife Jenny Patel said one customer told them he won the $50,000. But nobody has come forward yet, Owens said.
The clock is ticking. If the man doesn’t collect by July 20, he won’t get a penny.
“Maybe he doesn’t want the money,” Ruk Patel said. “But he’d still get about get $37,000 after taxes.”
The merchant whose store sells a winning ticket receives 1 percent of the total even if the winner doesn’t come forward.
WHERE TICKETS FOR UNCLAIMED LOTTERY PRIZES WERE SOLD