A New York State winning $24.1 million lottery ticket was found stuffed in an old shirt pocket along with dozens of other lotto slips just two days before the ticket was set to expire.
On May 24, 2017, with less than 48 hours to spare, Jimmie Smith, a 68-year-old resident of East Orange, New Jersey, discovered the winning ticket in his closet. He began going through the stubs after the New York Lottery advised players to check their receipts, as a life-changing win continued to go unclaimed.
After verifying the ticket and confirming Smith as the winner, the New York Lottery revealed his identity late last week. Smith had successfully matched all six Lotto numbers, plus the bonus ball. The winning numbers were 05-12-13-22-25-35, with the bonus 51.
“I always told myself, I’ll check when I have the time,” Smith explained. “I stood there a minute thinking, ‘Do I see what I think I see?’ I had to stick my head out the window and breathe in some fresh air.”
Smith is a father of two adult children, and a grandfather to 12. He says he plans to sit down with the entire family to discuss what to do with their newfound fortune. Smith opted to have the payment disbursed over a 26-year period.
One might not think that a state lottery would try to track down a $24.1 million winner, but that’s precisely what New York lottery officials did. In mid-May, the New York Lottery released a statement urging players to check their numbers to see if they were the winning ticketholder.
“Check your pockets. Check your glove box. Look under the couch cushions,” Lottery Director of Communications Gweneth Dean said in a statement. Local news outlets picked up the story, which Smith eventually saw.
Smith had one year from the drawing date to claim his prize. Should he have failed to locate the ticket in time, the $24.1 million would have been returned to the Lotto prize pool for future winners.
Staking a Claim
Billions of dollars in lottery ticket wins, in fact, go unclaimed each year. That’s according to Brett Jacobson, a so-called “lottery expert” who created an app for players to keep track of their numbers and tickets.
Speaking with CNN, Jacobson said the vast majority of unclaimed wins are due to secondary prizes. Players often hear about where a winning ticket was placed, and knowing that wasn’t them, discard the ticket despite it having some lesser value.
But jackpot wins like Smith’s are a different story. Those are almost always claimed, but there have been a few notable exceptions. In 2007, a $31 million ticket purchased in Queens, New York, went unclaimed.
Four years later, a $77 million Powerball winning slip passed it deadline and became a piece of trash. Powerball players have just 180 days to claim rewards. If you bought a Powerball ticket in 2014 at the Pilot Travel Center in Tallapoosa, Georgia, and selected 24-30-45-57-59, with a Powerball of 26, you left $77 million on the table.
Read it and weep, indeed.