A SuperLotto Plus ticket went from a $63-million prize to a worthless scrap of paper late Thursday afternoon after the person who bought it failed to show up by the deadline to turn it in.
The winner of the multimillion-dollar ticket had 180 days from the drawing on Aug. 8 to claim the prize. California Lottery had even put out a public call, warning the winner to claim his or her prize money before 5 p.m. Thursday.
Despite all the hype, lottery officials said the would-be winner never came forward. But the end of someone's $63-million dream didn't come without controversy.
Brandy Milliner, a Los Angeles County resident, filed legal documents Wednesday morning, claiming he had turned in the winning ticket to the California State Lottery Commission within the claim period.
He said the commission even sent him a letter congratulating him for the winning ticket, saying he would receive a check in six to eight weeks.
Milliner said the commission later reneged on his payment. Lottery officials said they routinely send congratulatory letters to people who claim to be winners before the ticket is confirmed.
According to the lawsuit, the commission sent a second notice in January, saying the ticket was "too damaged to be reconstructed" and his claim could not be processed.
Milliner is now asking a judge to declare him the winner.
The winning, unclaimed ticket was purchased at a 7-Eleven near 99-cent shops and liquor stores in the San Fernando Valley -- the type of place that brings a steady stream of Lotto buyers who return in large numbers the day after a drawing to check their tickets.
Gary Garcia, a 55-year-old retired demolition laborer, said Thursday that the store is one of several he uses to buy $5 of tickets in the morning and $5 in the evening each day.
"To be honest with you, a gambler never gets ahead," he said. "I just do it to pass the time."
Garcia said he knew his tickets would not be the big winner because he believed that Milliner's mangled ticket was legitimate.
"You know, I would do it the same way: Wait until the last minute once a plan is in place on how to use the money and how to deal with all the people who want a piece of it," he said.
As time ran out, Ocean Marciano, a 40-year-old music producer from Sherman Oaks, rushed into the store with a stack of unchecked lottery tickets he had stashed away and then forgot.
"My girl has been yelling at me because I literally have thousands of these at home and I never checked any of them," Marciano said. "Some of these go back to 2012."
He said he saw the news about the unclaimed prize and then spent hours searching old suitcases, shoe boxes, wallets, workout bags and fat plastic bags that his mother uses in a failed attempt to organize the tickets he accumulates.
"I'm scrambling here," said Marciano, who had already thought out his plan on how to invest and spend the jackpot. "I know there are a lot of people out there like me."
As he scanned the tickets inside the stores, he learned he would get $5 for a ticket purchased on Jan. 13.
"I won!" he shouted.
With the owner of the $63-million ticket essentially forfeiting the prize, the multimillion-dollar jackpot is now the largest unclaimed SuperLotto Plus ticket in the state's history.
The unclaimed money will go toward funding schools in the next quarter, lottery officials said.
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