There is a multimillion-dollar mystery in Illinois.
Someone out there has won $14 million in the state lottery and has yet to claim the money. If the winner does not come forward in the next three weeks, that fortune is gone forever.
There have been a lot of other lotto prizes unclaimed over the years, apparently, but none this big.
The drawing was held Jan 31, 2004, meaning the chance to step forward and claim the winnings runs out on Jan. 31, 2005. If the the winning ticket doesn't show up, the millions are gone.
With the chance of winning millions of dollars, those who regularly play the Lotto regularly check their tickets.
"Every time I buy one, (and that's) every day, I check it," one man told Ahern.
But in Frankfort, Ill., the mystery regarding who bought the winning ticket remains unsolved, but the $14 million winner has not been entirely elusive.
Ahern said that a lot of Lotto watchers knew about the good fortune right away last year.
"There was a fella that was banging on the door, because we were still locked," the Gas City clerk told Ahern of the morning after the winning drawing. "He said, 'Your place has won the $14 million.'"
But, while everyone knows where the winning ticket was purchased, no one knows who purchased it.
"Two or three people -- or one person -- every day someone asks, 'Has anyone picked up that $14 million?'"
Ahern said no one has actually picked up the millions, but there is someone who is trying to stake a claim. With time running out, someone stepped forward to say, "That's my $14 million."
There's one problem.
"There was a claim filed on the $14 million," said Illinois State Lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Adams, "but there was no ticket attached to the claim."
Adams cannot say who filed that claim, but workers at Gas City think they know who.
"The same lady that called," said the store's clerk. "(She) said, 'I am having a problem. I'm getting a divorce from my husband,' or something like that ... She says, 'I have to get a lawyer before I can claim the ticket. I don't want him to get any of it.'"
That mystery caller actually identified the winning ticket, Ahern said. The winning numbers are 37, 24, 14 , 23, 15 and 36.
Other Lotto players want to know if the mystery caller is real.
"It would be nice if that was my ticket," a customer at Gas City said.
The bottom line, though, is that until someone steps forward with the actual ticket, the money is unclaimed.
"No ticket? No claim," Adams said.
If the ticket does not surface by Jan 31, the money will go to state education fund.