Almost everyone in this small town in South Carolina has a theory for the billion-dollar mystery of the city: who won the $ 1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot announced last October?
Perhaps the winner was so overwhelmed to see the winning numbers that she or he died on the spot? Perhaps the winner is running away from the police and fears a check in the background? Perhaps that winning ticket fell from a car visor, ended up in a garbage can and is buried forever in Twin Chimneys landfill. Or maybe, the winner is still going on with life as usual, before quietly taking the lump sum of $ 878 million.
With less than two months to go, time is running out. Who won the second largest lottery in the history of the United States has time until 17:00 on April 19 to enter the South Carolina Lottery's office in Colombia with the signed ticket and claim the jackpot.
The winning ticket was sold at KC Mart in Simpsonville between October 20th and the draw at 11pm. October 23rd. Shop employee Jee Patel said officers from the State Law Division were waiting in the parking lot when the workers came to open at 6 the next morning.
"We did not even know we had already sold the winner," said Patel, adding agents who immediately removed the surveillance tapes. "We did not see them, I do not know when we sold it or who sold it."
Simpsonville is a fast-growing suburb of about 22,000 people south of Greenville. The store is far from the suburban core on a two-lane road past the four-way stop and several recently built subdivisions. Anyone who entered the shop on a cold winter day thought that the winning ticket was sold to someone who lived or worked nearby.
Christian Porchak lives a mile from KC Mart, where he bought tickets for the big design. He heard a brief run when he heard him sell the winner. With the same speed, however, his hopes were shattered as he checked his numbers – and again – again: "I know I checked all the tickets I bought, but there's that annoying feeling that maybe I do not I checked everyone. "
As with all great mysteries, there are some distant conspiracy theories. Chris Watson prepares hot dogs and grilled hamburgers from KC Mart. He wonders if Mega Millions has ever planned to assign the jackpot to everyone, instead using it as an excuse to sell more tickets.
"What I do not understand is why money has to go back? Why can not they simply use it for another jackpot?" Watson said.
If the ticket is not claimed, the $ 1.5 billion prize will be redistributed in the 44 states along with the US Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. A big loser could be South Carolina, which had earning $ 61 million in revenue from the winner, but had to remove that estimate – about 0.5% of the state's annual spending plan.
Every South Carolina tax payer could have an online dinner. A legislator filed a proposal in the state budget that would have granted a $ 50 refund to every person who records income taxes – but only if the state gets its taxes from the lottery winner.
Another big loser would be the shop owner, who will not receive his $ 50,000 bonus if the ticket is not claimed.
But Patel said the store had a big boost in sales in the weeks following the sale of the winning ticket and continues to have people who think that luck will affect them. That's why half a dozen signs saying "WE HAVE SOLD A TICKET FROM MEGA MILLION WINNING FROM $ 1.5 BILLION" will stand up, Patel said.
The jackpots, even the large ones, went first unclaimed. But this all dwarfs.
Gordon Medenica, director of the Mega Millions consortium, said the biggest jackpot Mega Millions not to claim was a $ 68 million prize in 2002. That ticket was sold in New York. Two winning tickets were sold for a jackpot of $ 103.5 million in 2002, but a ticket – sold in Indiana – has never been claimed, said Wendy Ahlm with the New Mexico lottery that currently oversees Powerball.
States differ how long the players have to claim their prizes. Medenica said she would not expect someone to come forward immediately. The winners often receive first legal and financial advice, and heard the theories that the winner was waiting until 2019 for tax reasons. And in South Carolina, as in a handful of other states, winners can remain anonymous, avoiding publicity.
"Now we are running out of the reasons why someone should wait that long," he said.
But in the past there have been expectations that the winners will come forward.
The biggest prize in US history, a $ 1,558 billion Powerball prize, was won on January 13, 2016 by buyers in California, Tennessee and Florida. The California winners did not come forward until about six months later, officials said.
"The bigger the prize, the more time it takes," said Russ Lopez, of the California Lottery. "It's an incredible amount of money, their lives will change".
Back in Simpsonville, theories continue to turn. Lloyd Hall cuts his hair in the city. He heard a rumor that the winner worked in a large transmission facility miles (kilometers) away, but now he's just waiting because he does not want his colleagues to know. Another voice says that an office swimming pool in the plant bought the ticket but now they are discussing while lawyers negotiate.
"I'm starting to think we'll never know," Hall said.
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