Store Finds $1M Lottery Ticket in Trash, Hands it Back to Customer

Posted on: May 26, 2021, 07:04h. 

Last updated on: May 26, 2021, 10:59h.

It has to go down as a good day when your faith in humanity is restored at exactly the same moment you become an unexpected millionaire. But that’s what happened to Massachusetts lottery player Lea Rose Fiega in March, thanks to the kindness of the family that owns her local grocery store.

Massachusetts lottery
Lea Rose Fiega holds up a check from the Massachusetts Lottery, which for once is not dramatically oversized. Fiega is the recipient of the million-dollar ticket. (Image: Massachusetts Lottery Commission)

Fiega had bought a $30 Diamond Millions scratch-off ticket at the Lucky Stop convenience store in Southwick but scratched too hurriedly at the silver latex coating. She was on her lunch break and needed to get back to work, she told The Washington Post.

The ticket looked like a dud, so she handed it over to the clerk to throw away.

The discarded ticket was actually worth $1 million, and it lay in the trash behind the counter for 10 days, before it was found by Abhi Shah, the son of the store’s owners.

A Tough Decision 

Shah, 30, spotted the ticket and noticed one of the numbers had not been fully scratched off. When he realized the ticket’s actual value, he was presented with a moral dilemma.

We had mixed emotions,” Shah told the Post. “We didn’t sleep for two nights, but I don’t know what happened. My inner soul told me: ‘That’s not right. You know who that person is. You should give that ticket back to them.’ And that’s exactly what I did.”

Shah knew where Fiega worked, so he went to see her.

“He came to my office and said, ‘My mom and dad would like to see you,”’ Fiega said. “I said, ‘I’m working,’ and he said ‘No, you have to come over.’ So I went over there and that’s when they told me. I was in total disbelief. I cried, I hugged them.”

“I mean, who does that? They’re great people. I am beyond blessed,” she added.

The Shah’s generosity will not go unrewarded. They get a $10,000 bonus from the lottery commission for selling the ticket, and Fiega has insisted on giving them an additional sum as a thank-you gift.

Laundered Money, Lost Fortune

Not everyone is quite as lucky, however. Contrast Fiega’s fortunes with the fate of an unnamed California woman who was unable to claim a $26 million lottery prize earlier this month because she had washed the ticket.

The woman bought the ticket at an ARCO AM/PM convenience store in Los Angeles County. As the clock ticked down on the 180-day claims deadline, she contacted the store in desperation to see if there was evidence of her buying the ticket on its security cameras.

There was, but this wasn’t good enough for the California Lottery, which at the very least would need a photograph of both sides of the winning ticket as proof of purchase.

The deadline to claim has now passed, which means the Lottery will donate the prize to the California public-schools system.