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Iowa officials trying to solve lotto mystery, may release surveillance video

Aug 19, 2012, 9:34 pm

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Hot Lotto

Investigators in Iowa may release surveillance video of a person who purchased an unclaimed lottery ticket in hopes the public will see something that will help a criminal probe.

The investigation, which was launched after the Jan. 27 deadline to claim the $14 million Iowa Hot Lotto jackpot, includes a New York attorney who briefly tried to claim the prize but refused to answer officials' question about how he obtained the winning ticket.

"There is some point in time when you open it up [to the public] because you want attention," Patrick Townsend, a special agent with the Department of Criminal Investigations, told ABC affiliate KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Townsend said investigators are sorting through leads and that if they do not advance the case within the next few weeks, he expects the video, or an image from it, to be released.

"I don't recall the quality of [the video] being excessively great," he said. "But it's something to go with, something with hope."

The jackpot disappeared as the clock ticked past 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 27, reverting to the Iowa state treasury.

"We wanted to pay the prize, we were more than prepared to pay the prize," lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer said. "But we didn't think it was a responsible thing to do."

Instead of a celebration, the state began an investigation.

"We opened a criminal investigation to learn more," said Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for the attorney general's office. "We have some questions about the circumstances of this ticket, and we're trying to determine who purchased it and how it was presented."

Officials had set the deadline hoping to award the prize to the sole claimant, Crawford Shaw, a New York-based attorney who signed the winning ticket. But Shaw refused to disclose how he got the ticket or who his client was.

Shaw said that the ticket and winnings belonged to the Hexham Family Trust, but misspelled the name on the ticket, writing "Hexam." Shaw said he could not disclose who his client was and only confirmed that the trust he represented was based in Belize.

Iowa Lottery officials drew the winning numbers for the jackpot in December 2010, but the prize went unclaimed for close to a year despite heavy advertising by the lottery for the winner to come forward. With two hours to go until the prize would be forfeited in December 2011, two Iowa attorneys presented the winning ticket, signed by Shaw, at the lottery headquarters.

They did not provide any explanation of how Shaw obtained the ticket.

"These are not tough questions that we've been asking, just very basic factual information that we get from any prize winner. It is simply us doing our duty to make sure nothing was amiss," Neubauer said in January.

Shaw withdrew his claim shortly before the window for the prize to be claimed expired.

"I still don't know why it was so difficult for the information to be provided, but if that's the case, that's how it will end," Neubauer said.

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