Powerball winner seeks in court to keep her identity secret

The winning numbers triple-checked and the lottery ticket signed, the New Hampshire woman knew her life was about to change in a positive way – except for one petrifying thing.

As the winner of last month’s $560 million Powerball lottery, she would soon be the world’s newest owner of a nine-digit bank account.

But because of lottery rules, everyone in the world would know about it – neighbors, old high school friends, con artists, criminals.

Now the woman is asking a judge to let her keep the cash – and remain anonymous.

In court on Tuesday, the woman’s attorney asked a judge to essentially grant a do-over, according to the New Hampshire Union-Leader. The woman wants to sign the back of the ticket with the name of an anonymous trust, keeping her identity a secret.

The winner is not trying to amend the laws of New Hampshire or the rules of the lottery, her attorney said. She was seeking a narrow ruling from the judge to guarantee her privacy rights.

Every day the case remains unresolved, the lottery winner loses about $14,000 in interest. The total amount lost since the winning numbers were picked on Jan. 6 is quickly approaching the half-million-dollar mark.

“We come to the court today in a Catch-22 . . . Not surprisingly, Ms. Doe would like to cash her ticket,” attorney Steven Gordon, who represents the winner, told the judge. “The ticket and the prize sits in limbo.”

It is unclear when Judge Charles Temple will rule on the case.

On one side of the case are lottery officials who say the integrity of the games depends on the public identification of winners as a protection against fraud and malfeasance. A local woman holding up a giant check while cameras flash and reporters scrawl also happens to be a powerful marketing tool.

On the other side is a woman suddenly faced with a life-changing stroke of luck who, court documents say, wishes to live “far from the glare and misfortune that has often fallen upon other lottery winners.”

The law doesn’t appear to be on her side.

As attorneys for the state and the lottery commission argued in court on Tuesday, New Hampshire lottery rules require the winner’s name, town and amount won be available for public information, in accordance with open-records laws.

“Petitioner’s understandable yearning for normalcy after entering a lottery to win hundreds of millions of dollars is not a sufficient basis to shut the public out of the business of government,” Assistant Attorney General John Conforti wrote in court documents.

The state allows people to form an anonymous trust, NewHampshire.com reported, but it’s a moot point for the woman – she signed her name on the back of the ticket shortly after winning, and altering the signature would nullify the ticket.

In a statement, New Hampshire lottery executive director Charlie McIntyre said that the commission consulted with the state’s attorney general’s office and that the Powerball winner must abide by the disclosure laws “like any other.”

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