Oct 10, 2014, 8:06 pm
Includes video report
Iowa investigators are asking the public for help in identifying the person who bought a lottery ticket worth $14.3 million that spawned a bizarre, two-year fraud investigation.
Investigators want to learn the identity of a white man wearing a hooded sweatshirt who purchased the lottery ticket at a QuikTrip near Interstate Highway 80 on Dec. 23, 2010, said Dave Jobes, an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation assistant director, during a news conference Thursday. The video released Thursday shows the purchase from two angles; however, a hood hides the man's face from viewers.
It is unknown whether the man is an Iowa resident, Jobes said. It's possible — given the gas station's close proximity to the cross-country interstate — that the purchaser was traveling through Iowa at the time, he said.
It also remains unknown whether the purchaser was a participant in the fraud that led to the investigation or a crime victim himself, Jobes said. Investigators want anybody who believes they recognize the purchaser to share information online via SurveyMonkey.
The man arrived at the northeast Des Moines convenience store midafternoon on Dec. 23, 2010. The video shows a white man wearing a hoodie with the hood up and a baseball cap buying two hot dogs and two lottery tickets. The man declines the $1 "Sizzler" option, which increases prizes in some cases. The winning ticket was time-stamped 3:24 p.m.
The buyer never looks up enough to get a clear shot of his face, state officials said.
Several days later, the ticket came up a winner. But the ticket went unclaimed for nearly a year. Hours before the ticket was to expire in 2011, a group called Hexham Investments Trust — a mysterious company incorporated in Belize — tried to claim the prize through a New York attorney named Crawford Shaw.
Those behind the trust refused to reveal their identities, which is required under Iowa law. Lottery officials refused to release the cash.
In a last-ditch effort, Shaw asked if Hexham Investments could claim the cash and turn it over to the state to give away to charity.
Lottery officials declined the offer, saying it was the duty of the prize winner to accept and distribute the funds. Hexham Investments and Shaw gave up their claim to the cash. The prize money was returned to the states participating in Hot Lotto. The Iowa Lottery used its portion of the prize money for a special game in 2012.
Since then, DCI officials have kept the investigation active. They even traveled to Canada to check out a lead, but no charges have ever been filed. In Thursday's news conference, Jobes said Shaw has continued to help DCI investigators with the case.
Jobes declined to say whether there is surveillance video available of the ticket purchaser leaving the gas station or driving away. Currently, investigators believe that the person or people behind Hexham Investments were not the original owners of the ticket and committed fraud by trying to get the money.
"A fraud was perpetrated when someone attempted to redeem the ticket fraudulently," Jobes said. "The other reason to pursue it is we don't know if something happened to the original ticket purchaser."
Iowa's statute of limitations for fraud charges is three years, Jobes said. While the clock is ticking, investigators have not put together a full timeline of how any fraud happened, he said. He still believes fraud charges can be brought against people involved, he said.
"The statute of limitations begins at the last act in furtherance of the fraud, and right now we don't know when that act occurred," he said. "There's not a hard timeline right now."
VIDEO: Watch the surveillance footage
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