Richard Termite Allender is on a mission to find the winner of a $100,000 Powerball ticket sold March 12 at Joes Junction in Trafalgar.
Allender believes hes the winner. But if hes not, the Brown County resident said he wants to help the deserving winner claim the prize. And hes prepared to press the Indiana State Lottery Commission until it pays someone, or until hes exhausted all his legal options.
After a six-month battle, the commission agreed to release the time the winning ticket was purchased, a piece of information Allender thought would help his cause.
However, after reviewing the stores video surveillance tape, he said it shows no one purchasing a ticket 10 minutes before or 10 minutes after the time the lottery commission said it was sold, which is about six hours before Allender purchased his ticket.
A hearing, where both sides will present evidence for and against paying the prize to Allender, has been set for 9 a.m. Dec. 18 in Indianapolis.
Regardless of the hearings outcome, the lottery director and commission ultimately decide whether to pay, said Jack Ross, Hoosier Lottery director.
Hell have the opportunity to come forward and produce anything he thinks is relevant, Ross said, adding that he has the authority to reject the decision of the administrative judge.
If he doesnt like what I say, then he can sue, Ross said.
Allender is prepared to fight until the end.
If Im not the winner, I want to find the winner, he said. Maybe there is another winner, but I cant find the winner if they give me the wrong time.
A security tape can convict or completely exonerate someone. If the lottery says the security tape is no good, theres a problem. It didnt seem right from the word go when they refused to give me the time.
Ross rebuts Allenders claim that the lottery is lying about the time. He has yet to view the surveillance tape.
I dont know if their clock was off, he said. Im very confident in the time in which that ticket was sold, which we have now given to him. All transactions are logged on a central system, so we know when each ticket was sold based on records in the central system.
Indiana law has a provision for people who dont have a ticket but believe they are the winner to make a claim for the prize. They must file the claim within 180 days of when the ticket was sold.
If no one comes forward with a ticket during that time, the director will then investigate the claim. However, Ross said the evidence must be compelling and substantial.
Due to the number of false claims made, Ross continues to maintain that revealing the time jeopardizes the validation process.
We take it very, very seriously, he said. Were in the business of paying prizes, but were also in the business of not paying prizes to people who dont have valid claims. Its an integrity question.
One piece of evidence that is very compelling is if they can tell us the time they purchased the ticket. We have to have a way to determine between legitimate claims from people who dont have tickets and bogus claims from people who dont have tickets.
During Ross three years as director, the lottery has paid about 10 non-ticket holders who filed claims, he said.
If I find someone should be paid, I take it to the commission, he said. We demand some pretty compelling evidence before we pay because the integrity of the lottery is at stake.
Unclaimed prize money goes back into an unclaimed prize pool, established by the state legislature. It is spent on future lottery games and promotions, such as vacation and vehicle giveaways. An average of $10 million goes unclaimed each year, Ross said.
Thats very standard for any lottery in the country, he said. The bulk of that is from lower-tier prizes.
Prizes under $20 make up the majority of the unclaimed prize pool, Ross said.
Its uncommon for large prizes to go unclaimed, he said. When people are playing for $1 million and win $1, they put the ticket in a dresser or their glove box and never turn it in.
The 180-day period for someone to claim the Joes Junction prize expired Sept. 11. Since no one has produced a winning ticket, and Joes Junction has a lot of regular customers, Allender is convinced the ticket he accidentally threw away was the winner. He said he bought a Powerball Power Play, making it worth $300,000.
People Allender meets on the street also are skeptical. He said thats because the lottery is rarely challenged.
One in five people I talk to say If you dont have the ticket, Termite, how can you be the winner? he said. This isnt a scam. How many other tickets have been lost in the last 10 years?
Ninety-nine percent of the people wouldnt have taken it this far, he said. Im trying to do what I think is right. If I do everything in the court system, somethings got to come out of it. But Im bumping up against some big heads.