DES MOINES, Iowa >> Authorities trying to figure out who bought an unclaimed multimillion-dollar lottery ticket in 2010 in Iowa released a video Thursday that shows the mystery person, though his identity still remains unknown.
The video released by the state Division of Criminal Investigation shows a hooded man at a Des Moines gas station buying a Hot Lotto ticket that was later identified as the winning combination for a $14.3 million jackpot. The man’s face is slightly obscured by his hood.
"We have no reason to believe that the original ticket purchaser has done anything illegal at this point," said DCI assistant director Dave Jobes. "We simply don’t know who they are, we don’t know if they’re a victim, we don’t know if they’re a participant, we just don’t know at this point."
Officials have said the footage was previously withheld from the public so as not to jeopardize the investigation, which began shortly after a suspicious claim for the ticket at the end of 2011. It’s taken them to leads in Houston and Canada as they tried to track the person or people involved in trying to claim the ticket. Jobes categorized the case as a fraud investigation.
DCI officials declined to release additional information and instead directed the public to an online survey that seeks information from anyone who believes they know the person in the video.
"During the last several months we’ve continued to work leads," Jobes said. "The investigation has simply reached a point where now is the appropriate time to do this."
Jobes said there is a state statute of limitations to prosecute such a case but that timeline is not yet finalized because officials are still figuring out when the last crime within the fraud was committed.
"Right now we don’t know when that act occurred," he said.
A New York lawyer in late 2011 waited minutes before the one-year deadline to try to claim the ticket. Lottery officials confirmed the ticket was valid, but they refused to pay the jackpot when the lawyer, Crawford Shaw, refused to name anyone involved with the purchase and handling of the ticket.
Shaw said he was representing an attorney for a person who purchased the ticket and wished to remain anonymous. He signed the ticket on behalf of a newly created trust and said the trust’s proceeds would go to a corporation in Belize.
Crawford soon withdrew his claim and said he didn’t know the winner’s name. Officials said Shaw has been cooperating in the investigation, but they did not release any more information about his role in the case and whether he may face charges in the future.
The prize money was eventually returned to the states participating in Hot Lotto. The Iowa Lottery gave away its share during a promotional giveaway in 2012.