Unclaimed $2.5M Ind. jackpot has winner after all

Published 12:11 am Saturday, February 20, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Eric White didn’t realize he’d left $2.5 million sitting on the desk in the office in his Indianapolis home for six months.

On Friday, he and his wife, Lori, cashed in, beating the odds by turning in the winning Hoosier Lotto ticket from the Aug. 19 drawing a week after the lottery officials said the prize wouldn’t be awarded because the 180-day deadline had passed. Officials extended the deadline to Feb. 22 after saying the date had been miscalculated.

Lori White, 38, said she sent her husband a text Tuesday night asking if he had any old lottery tickets after seeing a story about the unclaimed fortune on television. But it took another two days before he got around to looking. He found the winning ticket along with others Thursday night in his home office.

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‘‘They were in a pile of books on the desk,’’ said 39-year-old Eric White.

‘‘I have no idea how they did not get thrown away,’’ said Lori.

She said she tried calling the lottery office during the night, but it was closed. Friday morning, the couple consulted a financial adviser and went to the lottery’s downtown office to verify they had the winning ticket, bearing numbers 4-5-17-30-38-43.

‘‘I think I pinched myself when I woke up,’’ Lori White said.

Hoosier Lottery spokeswoman Lucia Anderson said no Indiana winner has ever stepped forward so late to claim a large prize.

The couple received a check for about $697,000 after taxes after choosing the cash option, Anderson said. The Hoosier Lottery withholds some state and federal taxes, but winners may have to pay additional taxes depending on their income level, she said.

The Whites said their first priority for the money is to pay for college for their two children, ages 3 and 6, and donate to their church. Beyond that, they said they’d have to think it over. Neither Eric nor Lori thought they would quit their jobs — he as a manager with a security company, she as a Marion County probation officer.

‘‘Right now it’s just being responsible with it, not being crazy,’’ Eric White said.

He bought the winning ticket at a Meijer convenience store on the south side of Indianapolis where he said he occasionally gets tickets while buying gas. The store will receive $25,000 for selling the winning ticket, Anderson said.

Last week, the store saw an influx of lottery players who had dug old tickets out of the trash or scoured through their cars and desk drawers hoping to find the elusive winner.

If the Whites hadn’t come forward, it wouldn’t have been the largest unclaimed prize. Hoosier Lottery spokesman Andrew Reed said a $5 million Hoosier Lotto jackpot went unclaimed in March 2004, and no winner stepped forward in September 2002 to claim their $50 million Powerball jackpot. In 2007, a $19 million New Jersey Lottery prize wasn’t claimed. Florida’s largest unclaimed payout was a $50 million Lotto ticket sold in 2003, and no one produced a winning $7 million Lotto Texas ticket last year.

The Whites did have some immediate plans for their new money.

‘‘There’s a nice dinner in our future,’’ Eric White said. ‘‘Then we’re just going to relax.’’