Woman Who Gave Away Lotto Ticket Won't Give Up

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.Courtesy Emily Leach
Emily Leach says she accidentally gave away a winning lottery ticket worth $260,000 after facing pressure for a man begging for her help. Leach won $1 million in the lottery in January.

Emily Leach, who won a million-dollar jackpot in California last January, said she is hoping to fight the state lottery's decision stopping her from collecting a second jackpot of $260,000 -- winnings that came from a ticket Leach has famously claimed she accidentally gave away to a stranger in March.

A lottery official informed her that "we gave the check to the man" in June, Leach told ABC News. Leach said she has asked a lawyer to explore her options.

A California Lottery spokesman confirmed to ABC News that Leach would not receive the $260,000 jackpot, a decision reached after an "extensive investigation" by the California Lottery's security and law enforcement division.

"We feel very confident that the person who claimed the ticket is the rightful owner of the ticket and that is not Emily Leach," Russ Lopez, the California Lottery's deputy director of communications, told ABC News.

Watch "20/20: Lotto Frenzy" TONIGHT at a special time, 9 p.m. ET.

These days, Leach, 31, is living with her mother in Reno, Nevada after being kicked out of her California home. (She said the landlord evicted her after deciding he could charge a higher rent to new tenants.)

"Right now, I'm just trying to hold on to every penny," she said.

Leach said she has to stay thrifty because of her ailing health. She used part of her January winnings to pay off $300,000 in medical bills she ran up after a ruptured spleen and a life-threatening bout with pancreatitis a couple of years earlier. Leach said she still has large bills for medication she must take.

It doesn't help, Leach says, that she doesn't have a real job anymore.

She said she was put on unpaid leave from her job at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System after her first lotto win because coworkers complained that there were threats made against her after her win, and they made for an unsafe work environment. She said she was later informed that she would be terminated at the end of her leave this month.

A hospital spokesman confirmed that Leach is currently an employee but said he could not provide additional information without written consent from Leach.

Leach made headlines for the lotto ticket dispute in March, after she said she accidentally gave a winning scratch-off ticket to a man who was begging her for help at a Mountain View, Calif. convenience store. She alleged that the man pressured her and took advantage of her.

Leach claims that she meant just to give the man money but instead, gave him cash and a lottery ticket -- the winning lottery ticket, she later learned -- while she was distracted by a phone call from her doctor.

"I will be the first to admit I got flustered. I shouldn't have been doing so many things at once," she told "20/20" in March. "But I was just trying to help the guy."

But the California Lottery's Lopez said that surveillance footage from the convenience store shows Leach willingly giving a man her ticket. An account of the incident given by the man claiming the ticket, Lopez said, was corroborated by the cashier who sold it.

"There was no coercion," Lopez said. "It was an act of kindness that unfortunately got messy when the numbers were drawn."

Lopez said the man who claimed the prize money has asked not to be identified.

Leach told ABC News on Thursday that, for now, she's trying to avoid stress that will hurt her health. She is also working on a book about her life.

Watch "20/20: Lotto Frenzy" TONIGHT at a special time, 9 p.m. ET.

ABC News' Eamon McNiff contributed to this report.