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Iowa Lottery on the verge of revealing names of 'Shipping 20' winners

Jul 4, 2012, 1:15 pm

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The mystery Iowa winners of a $241 million Powerball jackpot could have their identities unveiled as soon as Friday morning, say state officials.

The Iowa Lottery last month paid the biggest jackpot prize in state history to the 20 winners, a group of Quaker Oats workers from Cedar Rapids known as the "Shipping 20." But their names weren't released. It was the first time since the state lottery was established in 1985 that a jackpot winner hadn't been identified.

However, Iowa Lottery Chief Executive Officer Terry Rich advised the group's lawyers last month that the winners would be publicly identified on July 6 if they didn't follow through with their plans to seek a court order blocking lottery officials from releasing their names.

As of Tuesday, no petition had been filed in court to seek an injunction, and Rich said he didn't have any indication court action would occur by the deadline.

"I have the names and the document to release the names if we don't hear from them by Friday morning," Rich said.

Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for the Iowa attorney general's office, which has been advising the Iowa Lottery on the matter, said Tuesday that his office had heard nothing new from the Cedar Rapids law firm of Day, Rettig & Peiffer, which is representing the Powerball winners.

"There is still time, but we haven't heard anything yet," Greenwood said.

Lawyers from the firm didn't respond on Tuesday to requests for comment. The Des Moines Register has made a formal request to Iowa Lottery officials seeking the release of the winners' names, citing Iowa's open-records law.

Nearly all of the winners attended an Iowa Lottery news conference on June 20 in Des Moines after they claimed their prize. However, the workers refused to fully identify themselves to reporters.

"We are private people, common people. I don't want the limelight," one man said.

The winners — 18 men and two women — chose to receive their payment as a $112 million lump sum after taxes, rather than a $241 million annuity spread over 30 years. Each received $5.6 million.

Joe Day of Cedar Rapids, a lawyer who represents the Shipping 20 Trust, said after last month's news conference that he planned to seek a court order in Linn County District Court to block the Iowa Lottery from releasing the names of the winners.

Day said the legal winner of the Powerball jackpot is the Shipping 20 Trust, and the workers are beneficiaries of the trust who cannot be identified without their consent. He contended that the trust was created the minute the group created a pool to buy lottery tickets.

The names of Iowa Lottery winners have been routinely made public since the state-run lottery was established in 1985. Lottery officials say that provides transparency and ensures the public is aware prizes are being paid to real people. Rich said there have been other lottery winners who wanted to remain anonymous, but this was the first time that someone had announced plans to seek a court order to keep his or her identity a secret.

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