Murder? Blackmail? Investigators Check Why $14.3M Jackpot Was Abandoned
It is too late to collect on the $14.3 million Iowa Lotto ticket, but the state's Division of Criminal Investigation is still trying to determine who owned the ticket that was claimed and then abandoned to make sure no one was killed or blackmailed, officials told ABC News.
The Lotto ticket was purchased in December 2010 at a Des Moines, Iowa, gas station, but a claim for it only emerged nearly a year later, just hours before the deadline to claim the jackpot expired.
It was claimed by Crawford Shaw, 77, of Bedford, N.Y., who said he represented a trust that owned the ticket. He sent the ticket via FedEx to a law firm in Des Moines whose attorneys tried to collect on Shaw's behalf.
When Iowa officials challenged Shaw's ownership, he abandoned the claim and the ticket became worthless because the deadline to collect the winnings had passed.
Nevertheless, the probe into who was the owner of the bonanza continues.
"The possibilities of what could have occurred here really are endless," said Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer. "It could have been as serious as someone being killed, or someone being blackmailed. It's all within the realm of possibility. The whole situation is just strange."
The Iowa Lottery balked at paying Shaw because the owner would not come forward.
"Our security ran all the checks," Neubauer told ABC News. "There was no question that it was actually the winning ticket, but they couldn't answer some very simple security questions."
Neubauer said Shaw and his attorneys were unable to identify who bought the ticket, where it was purchased, and where the ticket had been for the year until the claim was made.
"In most instances, the people who come in to claim the prize answer the questions off the top of their heads in just a few minutes, so this was unusual the whole way through," she said.
According to Neubauer, Shaw said he didn't know the winner's identity and that the trust's proceeds would go to a corporation in Belize, a country that has a reputation as a tax haven.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has subpoenaed phone and email records in an effort to get to resolve the mystery. Officials say they are running down a couple of leads, but added no new information has emerged that would move the case forward in a significant way.
"The ticket could have been stolen or somebody might have been blackmailed," Jessica Lown, communications manager at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation told ABC News. "The important thing is that we want to sure there is nobody in physical jeopardy or that there is no financial crime going on."
When contacted by ABC News, Shaw refused to provide details on how he came into possession of the ticket.
"As far as I am concerned, this is old news," he said. "I've totally discussed this with the people in Iowa. They have a full record of the case. I have no comment."