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Cash Stolen From Lottery Winner's Vehicle

August 06, 2003|From Associated Press

CROSS LANES, W.Va. — A Powerball winner who has donated more than $3 million of his record winnings to churches was drinking at a strip club when $545,000 was stolen from his sport utility vehicle, police said Tuesday.

Jack Whittaker said he hopes the incident will not affect the Jack Whittaker Foundation, which he established to help charities operated by the Church of God and other causes. He also said he wanted to remind the media and the public that he is a private citizen.

"I'm simply a businessman who has seen his share of failures and successes," Whittaker said. "My personal life is my own and I make no excuses for my actions."

Whittaker, a building contractor, was already a millionaire when he claimed a $113-million cash option after winning a record $314.9-million jackpot. He promised to donate one-tenth of his winnings to charity.

Someone broke the driver's side window and took a briefcase containing $245,000 in cash and three $100,000 cashier's checks belonging to Whittaker, who hit Powerball's richest jackpot on Christmas Day, police said. The briefcase, cash and checks were found behind a nearby trash bin.

"It's a known fact that Mr. Whittaker does carry a lot of money around with him, because he does frequent not only that club, but several other establishments ... and he does gamble," said Kanawha County Sheriff Dave Tucker.

Authorities believe the thief has close ties to the Pink Pony strip club in Cross Lanes, but no arrests have been made.

Whittaker arrived at the Pink Pony on Monday evening. He left shortly after midnight, returning at 2:30 a.m., Tucker said.

Whittaker discovered the broken window about 5 a.m. and tried to go back inside to call police, but club employees initially refused to let him in.

Whittaker called deputies at 5:20 a.m. and also called a private investigator, who found the stolen items behind the trash bin, police said.

Kanawha County Chief Deputy Phil Morris said club employees told deputies Whittaker was allowed to stay at the club until after 5 a.m. because he had drunk a lot of alcohol. The club closes at 3 a.m.

Whittaker told deputies that he was drugged after his return to the Pink Pony.

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