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Mega Millions mystery widens as Maryland 'winner' comes forward

April 04, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • One of the three winning tickets splitting the record $640-million Mega Millions jackpot was sold at this 7-Eleven in Baltimore County, Md.
One of the three winning tickets splitting the record $640-million Mega… (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore…)

When an attorney announced he was holding a news conference Wednesday on behalf of a Maryland McDonald's worker who claims to hold one of three winning Mega Millions tickets, the media throng dutifully showed up expecting answers.

No such luck. Instead, there were more questions. And the most important unanswered question was this: Does Mirlande Wilson, 37, of Westport, Md., really have the winning ticket?

And if the public at large is anxious for answers -- after all, hundreds of thousands of Americans played for a chance at a jackpot that topped $640 million -- imagine how Wilson's co-workers at the fast-food restaurant feel. They say they have reason to believe Wilson might be trying to walk off with winnings that rightly belong to the workplace pool.

The attorney, Edward Smith, did nothing to bring clarity to this puzzling situation. Indeed, he used rather peculiar language during Wednesday's news conference.

"I have not seen the ticket, nor do I want to see the ticket," Smith told the media in attendance, according to Fox News.

"We believe it to be a legitimate claim," he added. "When it is time to present the ticket or whatever it is that needs to be presented to the lottery commissioner, I am sure that we will be there."

What? If you're an attorney representing a woman claiming to have a piece of one of the biggest jackpots in history, wouldn't you have a peek at the ticket? Further, "we believe it to be a legitimate claim" seems like some fairly odd wording, as does "whatever it is that needs to be presented to the lottery commissioner."

C'mon. Either Wilson has a winning ticket or she doesn't. Is this some kind of slow-moving April Fool's Day prank?

Here's what's happened so far, and if this sounds a little confusing, that's because it is:

The Mega Millions jackpot swelled to well more than $640 million last week -- a record -- in part because of co-workers nationwide pooling their money for an increased chance of striking it rich. At her workplace, Wilson was the person who collected the money and bought tickets for the office pool. Those tickets were reportedly kept in a safe at the McDonald's restaurant where they all worked.

But on Friday night as Wilson was leaving, her boss reportedly tossed her another $5 and told her to buy more tickets on her way home, according to the New York Post. The following day, Wilson called the McDonald's to proclaim that she had won -- not with the office pool tickets, but with tickets she had purchased on her own. Her co-workers immediately became suspicious.

Upon further questioning, Wilson told the Post: "I don’t know if I won. Some of the numbers were familiar. I recognized some of [them]." Moreover, she also told the Post that the winning ticket was actually stashed someplace in McDonald's. "I left my ticket there, and it’s somewhere safe that only I know about," the paper quoted her as saying.

Of course, this begs the question: Why would you spend a single second talking to a reporter when you have a multimillion-dollar lottery ticket "somewhere" in a McDonald's? Wouldn't you be concerned that co-workers might start taking that McDonald's apart brick by brick, looking everywhere -- including under those golden delicious fries -- searching for the ticket?

There's no certainty that this mystery will be cleared up anytime soon. The three winning tickets were purchased in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland. And while the Mega Millions lottery is played nationwide, rules governing whether the winner's identity will be made public vary from state to state.

Maryland is one of those states that does not require lottery winners' names to be made public.

So far, however, the lottery offices in those three states say no one has come forward to claim a piece of the Mega Millions prize.

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