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No Closer on Anonymity, NH Powerball Winner Gets to Cash In

The lotto winner hoping to preserve her anonymity need not worry about lost interest on her half-billion-dollar jackpot after a judge agreed Friday to let her trust collect.

NASHUA, N.H. (CN) - The lotto winner hoping to preserve her anonymity need not worry about lost interest on her half-billion-dollar jackpot after a judge agreed Friday to let her trust collect.

Though the Hillsborough Superior Court must still rule on whether the winner’s identifying information is subject to disclosure under New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law, Presiding Justice Charles Temple granted a motion after the New Hampshire Lottery Commission conceded Thursday  that it is the appropriate move now to pay the winnings to a trust.

Saturday marks six weeks since the woman known to the public as Jane Doe won the $560 million Powerball jackpot with a ticket she bought at Reed’s Ferry Market.

In that short time, the commission has already received numerous requests for information on the winning ticket, including images of the ticket that Doe’s attorney submitted to the commission to verify that she was a winner.

The commission said in Thursday’s filing that any release of such images before Doe formally claims the prize could make it possible for counterfeiters to step in.

“These communications and ticket images contain information which, if released, may defeat security measures within this unredeemed ticket and lead to an effort to counterfeit the ticket before it is redeemed,” the filing states.

Doe has not yet collected her winnings because of one “big mistake,” as she described it in her Jan. 29 complaint, filed by Shaheen & Gordon in Concord.

In a panicked state after realizing she was the winner, Doe followed the directions of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission to sign her name on the back of the ticket, also including her address and phone number.

Though an attorney advised Doe later that she could create a trust to collect her winnings anonymously, Doe’s privacy options are limited now that the ticket is signed.

New Hampshire’s Right to Know law would force the commission to disclose records identifying the winner, and the commission has said any attempt by Doe to white-out her name on the back of the ticket would invalidate it.

As Judge Charles Temple decides whether to grant Doe an exception, the commission requested permission Thursday to postpone any records requests until five days after the winning ticket is submitted and confirmed.

New Hampshire was the first state to offer a statewide lottery program, according to the New Hampshire Lottery’s website. The program began in 1964 to fund education, which it still does. Although Powerball is a multistate sweepstakes, New Hampshire brought in $307 million in ticket sales in 2016.

Across the country, 43 states and the District of Columbia operate lottery programs. Of those, only six, Maryland, Delaware, Kansas, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina, allow winners to remain anonymous without relying on a trust.

Doe has described herself only as a lifelong New Hampshire resident with no plans to leave the Granite State.

“She intends to contribute a portion of her winnings to a charitable foundation, so that they may do good in the world,” the complaint states. “She wishes to be a silent witness to these good works, far from the glare and misfortune that has often fallen upon other lottery ‘winners.’”

The complaint recounts a half-dozen instances of lotto winners who faced “life-threatening consequences” after their identities were disclosed, including a Georgia winner who was killed in a 2016 home invasion.

With bucolic New Hampshire at the forefront of the nation’s opioid crisis, Doe says the size of the prize in her case enhances her risks.

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