Virginia Lottery Winner Discards $110K Ticket, Dumpster Dive Turns Up Fortune

Posted on: April 6, 2022, 12:32h. 

Last updated on: April 6, 2022, 11:04h.

A Virginia Lottery player was most fortunate when she hit a $110,000 Cash 5 jackpot during the February 24 draw. She needed more luck, however, in order to find the lucky ticket.

Virginia Lottery ticket Cash 5
Mary Elliott poses with her $110,000 check from the Virginia Lottery. Elliott nearly discarded her winning Cash 5 ticket but realized she had won big before trash day. (Image: Virginia Lottery)

Mary Elliott of Buckingham County, Virginia, purchased a Cash 5 ticket for the February 24 draw. The Cash 5 game takes place seven nights a week at 11 pm ET. Tickets cost just a buck but come with an EZ Match option for $1.

Elliott went with the $2 play. And when her five numbers hit — 6-13-18-21-25 — her ticket became worth $110,000, which was the rolling jackpot at the time.

Unfortunately for Elliott, she realized in hindsight that she had accidentally tossed the Cash 5 ticket into the trash. She only realized that she had won because the five numbers she selected were important birthdates.

When I saw I’d won, I couldn’t stop shaking to save my life,” Elliott told the Virginia Lottery.

Elliott said she quickly rummaged through her trash bins, desperately searching for the small piece of paper worth $110,000. After some anxious moments, she located the ticket.

Virginia allows lottery winners who win $10 million or more to remain anonymous. But smaller prize winners such as Elliott must remain on the public record.   

Ticket Disheveled

Even after Elliott found her Cash 5 ticket, she wasn’t sure whether the Virginia Lottery would accept it. After all, she said the receipt had a coffee stain that prevented the barcode from scanning properly.

After a local lottery retailer could not validate the ticket, Elliott went to the Virginia Lottery’s Prize Zone in Henrico. Lottery officials there were able to confirm the ticket’s legitimacy and awarded her the $110,000 jackpot prize.

The odds of matching all five numbers are 1 in 749,398. The EZ Match component allows players to win a separate prize of up to $500. Elliott did not match any of the EZ Match numbers.

Trash to Riches

With lottery tickets often no larger than the size of a piece of scrap paper, Elliott’s nearly $110,000 mistake isn’t necessarily rare. Just last May, for example, a Massachusetts woman threw away a winning ticket worth $1 million.

As reported, Lea Rose Fiega handed a clerk at the Lucky Stop convenience store in Southwick her $30 Diamond Millions scratch-off after she thought it was a loser. The clerk placed the ticket in a trash receptacle behind the counter.

Later, the Lucky Stop owner — Abhi Shah — came across the ticket and quickly realized it was a winner. After discovering it was worth $1 million, the owner said he had a moral dilemma.

“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 told The Washington Post.

He says he arrived at the right conclusion and tracked down Fiega. Shah won’t go empty-handed, however, as the Massachusetts Lottery compensated the store $10,000 for selling the winning ticket.