Lotto Winner Who Accidentally Gave Away Ticket Claims Man Pressured and Confused Her

PHOTO: Emily Leach says she accidentally gave away a winning lottery ticket worth $260,000 after facing pressure for a man begging for her help.
Share
Copy

The two-time California lottery winner who claimed to inadvertently give a stranger a winning ticket worth six figures says she'd be willing to split the money with him if he'd only come forward to tell the truth.

"You come forward and tell the truth about what happened that day in the store and I will let you decide what you want to do with the ticket," Emily Leach told "20/20" correspondent Jay Schadler in an exclusive interview.

Leach, 30, won $1 million playing a lottery scratch-off game in January and used it to pay off some $300,000 in medical bills stemming from a ruptured spleen and a life-threatening bout with pancreatitis a couple of years earlier.

Her feel-good story was widely reported by local media, but this week she drew national attention for another, more controversial lottery win: She said she won another scratch-off game -- this time, for a jackpot of $260,000 -- but she accidentally gave the ticket to a man who was begging her for help at a Mountain View, Calif. convenience store.

Watch the full story on "20/20: Lotto Frenzy" online here.

The man, who has not been identified, has reportedly claimed that he gave Leach money to buy him a ticket because he recognized her as a previous lottery winner and thought she'd bring him luck.

But Leach says the man pressured her and took advantage of her. She said it began when she was standing in front of the man in a line at the convenience store. At the time, Leach was cashing in scratch-off tickets with small winning amounts. Because it took so long, Leach offered to pay for the man's beer.

Leach said that in the ensuing conversation, the man revealed that he knew all about her -- her lottery win and her health problems.

"This guy's still talking to me, and it turns into him crying and asking me for help. (He said) 'I know you don't owe me anything, but, I could really use the help. I've got kids to feed...I'm in a bad place. Do you think you could help me out?'" she said.

Leach decided to give him $100.

"I'm thinking to myself, I really need to get this guy out of here... He obviously needs the help. Let me help him, and maybe he'll go. And then I can finish what I'm doing," she said.

PHOTOS: Biggest Jackpot Winners

As she reached into her purse, Leach said, her doctor called with test results. What happened next continues to haunt her.

"I've got the money and tickets in one hand, and I've either got tickets, or money, or both, in another hand. Somehow, I hand this man a hundred dollars, and, I guess, a ticket," she said.

A clerk at the store at the time gave a different account to the media: He has said that Leach intentionally gave the man a lottery ticket.

"If that's what he thinks ...you know all I know was what I did," Leach said. "I will be the first to admit I got flustered. I shouldn't have been doing so many things at once. But I was just trying to help the guy."

Leach said that despite her desire to help others, she would never give away a lottery ticket.

"I'm not stupid," she said.

Leach said the man didn't leave her alone after she gave him the cash.

"When I tried to leave, he was outside in his car asking me to come over to look at his gas tank for more money," she said.

Leach said that after the incident -- long before she learned that she accidentally gave away a winning ticket -- she was in tears, upset by how pressured she felt by the stranger.

Still, she said she'd still be willing to give the man money from her winnings if he told the truth about what happened that day -- that he "pressured," "confused" and "frustrated" her.

The ticket, she said, is "mine because I paid for it."

"But that doesn't mean that I'm going to walk away with the whole thing and not do something for that person -- something more, something much more than $100," she said.

The disputed lottery ticket isn't Leach's only problem. She said she and her family have been overwhelmed by attention related to her lottery wins, from profane, prank phone calls to people showing up at her home.

"I had to leave my apartment because so many people were showing up and I hid at my grandmother's for two months before I moved into my new home," she said. "I can't even go hide there anymore because not only did they show up at my door with cameras rolling and I had to hide on the kitchen floor with my mom, but my grandmother called crying because they went to her house and she was there alone and she had to go hide in the bathroom."

Leach said she plans to move again to try to reclaim her privacy.

But she said she hasn't given up on helping people.

"God let me live for some reason," she said. "I've got to pay it forward. That's the least I can do."

Watch the full story on "20/20: Lotto Frenzy" online here.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...