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Friday
Jan272012

Lotto Jackpot Deadline Passes as Crime Probe Starts

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- As the deadline to claim a $16 million Hot Lotto jackpot passed without a winner Friday, the Iowa attorney general's office launched a criminal investigation into the only person who tried to claim the prize.

"We wanted to pay the prize, we were more than prepared to pay the prize," lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer said. "But we didn't think it was a responsible thing to do."

The jackpot disappeared as the clocked ticked past 4 p.m. ET, reverting to the Iowa state treasury. And instead of a celebration, the state began an investigation.

"We opened a criminal investigation to learn more," said Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for the attorney general's office. "We have some questions about the circumstances of this ticket, and we're trying to determine who purchased it and how it was presented."

Officials had set the deadline hoping to award the prize to the sole claimant, Crawford Shaw, a New York-based attorney who signed the winning ticket. But Shaw refused to disclose how he got the ticket or who his client was.

Shaw said that the ticket and winnings belonged to the Hexham Family Trust, but misspelled the name on the ticket, writing "Hexam." Shaw said he could not disclose who his client was and only confirmed that the trust he represented was based in Belize.

The investigation will try to determine how Shaw became the owner of the winning lottery ticket, purchased in Des Moines, Iowa, in December 2010. The lottery has obtained a surveillance video of the man who purchased the ticket at a Des Moines, Iowa, convenience store, but would not release details about the video.

Iowa Lottery officials drew the winning numbers for the jackpot in December 2010, but the prize went unclaimed for close to a year despite heavy advertising by the lottery for the winner to come forward. With two hours to go until the prize would be forfeited in December 2011, two Iowa attorneys presented the winning ticket, signed by Shaw, at the lottery headquarters.

They also did not provide any explanation of how Shaw obtained the ticket.  

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