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Surprise! Winner of $34.5M Lotto jackpot is not estranged husband

Indiana LotteryIndiana Lottery: Surprise! Winner of $34.5M Lotto jackpot is not estranged husband
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A Shelbyville man hits a $34.5 million lottery jackpot but then takes pains to hide it from his estranged wife by claiming it covertly.

It was a made-for-TV story that turned out to be too good to be true.

The wife of the purported winner of the Hoosier Lotto's latest jackpot made clear in a local TV interview last week that she wanted her share. And it even took on a legal dimension this week, when a Shelby County court entered the fray, ordering the husband not to spend a dime.

But the winner, instead, is a Shelbyville woman in her 70s, according to her attorney.

The lawyer — his client still wishes to remain anonymous — insisted to The Indianapolis Star on Thursday that the winner had no connection to James Prather, publicized as the potential winner by at least two Indianapolis TV stations.

Prather's name had come to the forefront as rumors swirled around Shelbyville in the days after the Feb. 18 Hoosier Lotto drawing. A week ago, his wife, Ericka, gave the rumors credence, when she said in a television interview that James Prather asked her for a divorce out of the blue and admitted to winning the lottery.

Prather's eventual denial that he had won failed to convince either his wife or her Carmel attorney, Andrew Thompson.

Thompson said Thursday that he still was seeking proof that Prather wasn't the winner.

It wasn't enough that the actual winner's Indianapolis attorney, Geffrey Rainbolt, contacted Thompson earlier Thursday to discuss the matter.

Rainbolt was scratching his head over the confusion surrounding the jackpot.

"I was surprised that confirmation wasn't sought by the news sources reporting the information" about Prather, Rainbolt said. He said he could have confirmed that Prather had no connection to the jackpot if he had been contacted.

He did just that, Rainbolt said, when representatives from national TV programs "Inside Edition," which airs locally on WISH (Channel 8), and ABC's "20/20" called him to check out the story. But he said the Indianapolis station that aired the interview with Ericka Prather — WRTV (Channel 6) — did not contact him.

Kevin Finch, WRTV's news director, did not return a voicemail Thursday.

Attempts to reach James Prather were not successful.

The Star's stories on the Hoosier Lotto jackpot did not mention Prather, focusing instead on the winner's desire for anonymity.

Rainbolt said his client made that choice because of concerns about her safety and security, as well as her family's privacy in a small town.

She opted for the upfront cash payment: nearly $16 million, or $11.4 million after federal and state taxes.

It was Rainbolt who accepted the oversized check from a Hoosier Lottery official at a Feb. 24 news conference. The check was made out to HLT LLC, the limited liability corporation Rainbolt had established to shield his client's identity. HLT stands for Hoosier Lottery Ticket.

But even before that day, rumors naming Prather as the winner had spread quickly around Shelbyville, though it's not clear why he was the focus of speculation.

The Hoosier Lottery announced Feb. 19 that the winning ticket — for a jackpot that tied as the Hoosier Lotto's third-largest — had been sold at Smokers Host in Shelbyville.

The next afternoon, a commenter wrote a simple message on the Shelbyville News' Facebook page: "it was james prather" (sic).

Also on Feb. 20 — four days before Rainbolt claimed the jackpot for his client — WXIN (Fox 59) reported on the buzz around Shelbyville, with talk centering on James Prather as the likely winner.

Lee Rosenthal, the station's news director, said WXIN's reporter learned of Prather's name from the store that sold the winning ticket. It's possible, of course, that the store employee had simply heard the talk around town.

WXIN didn't name Prather in follow-up reports later that week after the winner's attorney came forward.

However, WRTV's interview with Ericka Prather didn't air until after Rainbolt's news conference at Hoosier Lottery headquarters.

In that interview, she said she and James Prather had had an on-and-off relationship, had never divorced, and had two children who lived with her.

She told WRTV of a phone call she had received from her husband earlier that week:

"He goes, 'I got a question. Can we make our divorce final?' And I was like, it was just out of nowhere. I was like, 'Is it because you hit the lottery?' He's like, 'Huh?' and tried to say that he didn't, and then he's like, 'Yeah, I did.' "

A written version of WRTV's report was picked up by The Associated Press and was published on some news websites outside Indiana.

Thompson said Ericka Prather sincerely believed her husband was the winner.

"She wasn't looking for news coverage," he said, "but for a just result."

And the urgency of protecting her interest and that of her children is what led Thompson to seek a temporary restraining order on James Prather's spending — as a precautionary measure — in Shelby Superior Court. A judge granted the motion Monday, Thompson said, but no hearing has been held.

"So if he doesn't have any (winnings)," the attorney said, "obviously it doesn't have any effect."

Just to be sure, The Star asked the Hoosier Lottery if James Prather had attempted to claim any winnings recently in any of its games.

Spokesman Al Larsen said Prather had not submitted any claim.

Indianapolis Star

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54 comments. Last comment 2 years ago by imagine.
Page 1 of 4
NightStalker's avatar - IMG00073 20100720-1609_2.jpg
Nothing Good Happens After Midnight
East of Columbus, OH
United States
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December 28, 2011
415 Posts
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Posted: March 2, 2012, 6:58 pm - IP Logged

LMAO!!  I'll bet she divorces him now!!

Life's Too Short To Be Unhappy Cool

    haymaker's avatar - Lottery-012.jpg
    egg harbor twp.south jersey shore
    United States
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    June 29, 2011
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    Posted: March 2, 2012, 7:01 pm - IP Logged

    oh so he did't spill his guts when she asked,

    just testing the water maybe,

    or maybe it was time to bite the bullit,

    and she thought,whats up ?

    but then, does he know the real winner ?

    this could get messy.

    Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds    -- Charles Mackay  LL.D.


      United States
      Member #111446
      May 25, 2011
      6323 Posts
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      Posted: March 2, 2012, 7:06 pm - IP Logged

      Hmmmm......lotteries do stir up a lot of drama, whether intentional or not. Money certainly is a game changer when it comes to the game of life.

      Hyper   Lep      Crazy     Roll Eyes

        New York's avatar - 103h4yr
        NYC
        United States
        Member #117988
        October 19, 2011
        1713 Posts
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        Posted: March 2, 2012, 7:13 pm - IP Logged

        LOL my head hurts. So let me get this straight. The winner is not James and someone else? And this diversion was to test the womens Greed? LOL haha.

          Avatar
          Left Coast
          United States
          Member #122303
          January 28, 2012
          98 Posts
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          Posted: March 2, 2012, 7:20 pm - IP Logged

          The real winner and her attorney are WAY too nice for this world. If I was a winner and trying to stay anonymous, I would keep my mouth shut and relish every week these two could stay in the news. This is exactly the scenario I would have wanted.

            time*treat's avatar - radar

            United States
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            March 30, 2005
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            Posted: March 2, 2012, 7:22 pm - IP Logged

            Mr. Prather should go and get that divorce finalization, post haste. Yikes!

            In neo-conned Amerika, bank robs you.
            Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be the name of a convenience store, not a govnoment agency.

              haymaker's avatar - Lottery-012.jpg
              egg harbor twp.south jersey shore
              United States
              Member #112972
              June 29, 2011
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              Posted: March 2, 2012, 7:23 pm - IP Logged

              The real winner and her attorney are WAY too nice for this world. If I was a winner and trying to stay anonymous, I would keep my mouth shut and relish every week these two could stay in the news. This is exactly the scenario I would have wanted.

              sorry man,doesn't work,just puts more focus on it when the truth comes out.

              Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds    -- Charles Mackay  LL.D.

                haymaker's avatar - Lottery-012.jpg
                egg harbor twp.south jersey shore
                United States
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                June 29, 2011
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                Posted: March 2, 2012, 7:26 pm - IP Logged

                LOL my head hurts. So let me get this straight. The winner is not James and someone else? And this diversion was to test the womens Greed? LOL haha.

                could be,or maybe he knows the real winner.

                Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds    -- Charles Mackay  LL.D.

                  mightwin's avatar - questns

                  United States
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                  January 5, 2011
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                  Posted: March 2, 2012, 7:35 pm - IP Logged

                  Yeah, what idiots! Maybe the reporter might want to do a little investigating next time instead of taking someones word for it

                    loonasee2's avatar - 580603 549411115100199_1030671326_n.jpg
                    Walmart #657
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                    Posted: March 2, 2012, 7:35 pm - IP Logged

                    Bet they both feel like the horses back-side.lol

                      US Flag Its not how you play the game ,.........Its if you win or lose ,................... 

                      RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                      mid-Ohio
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                      Member #9
                      March 24, 2001
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                      Posted: March 2, 2012, 7:38 pm - IP Logged

                      Sounds similar to the story I read a few years ago here at LP about a Florida woman trying to get an unclaimed Hoosier lottery jackpot after hearing from her kin folks that her estranged husband who lived in Indiana had destroyed the winning ticket rather than claim the jackpot and share it with her and her kids.

                      * you don't need more tickets, just the right ticket * 
                      * your best chance to win a lottery jackpot is to buy a ticket * 
                          Wink 

                        dallascowboyfan's avatar - tiana the-princess-and-the-frog.jpg
                        Oklahoma
                        United States
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                        November 12, 2009
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                        Posted: March 2, 2012, 9:30 pm - IP Logged

                        WOW!!!! they need a reality tv showLurking

                          TheGameGrl's avatar - p42a
                          Pennsylvania
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                          Member #17084
                          June 10, 2005
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                          Posted: March 2, 2012, 11:14 pm - IP Logged

                          Truly - smiling ear to ear. :)

                          Love ...and I mean...love the fact that this soon to be divorced wife now gets half of nuffin :) 

                          Nice that the truth came out.

                          ________________________________

                          Signature quote-If I'd agree with you , we'd both be wrong.

                            temptustoo's avatar - cat anm.gif
                            usa
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                            April 2, 2010
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                            Posted: March 2, 2012, 11:51 pm - IP Logged

                            Attorneys , judges and bull crap....    They all look like total fools...  LOL.. !!!!  All about the money !!! and her lawyer is still not convinced .. Money grubbing lawyers.. The judge should be off the bench..  He had no proof of anything .. just a Lawyer talking about rumors.. LOL..  Big Grin Angel