Michigan law allows lottery winners to remain anonymous, and the man who cashed in a winning WinFall ticket this week took full advantage of it.
The man turned in the winning ticket from the April 10, 2004 drawing, which offered a $3.8 million jackpot. He opted to take a lump-sum payment good for $1.4 million after taxes.
The man would not let lottery officials identify him publicly or provide his age, hometown or place of employment, said Andi Brancato, a lottery commission spokeswoman.
"He was a man of few words," lottery Commissioner Gary Peters told The Detroit News for a Friday story.
The winning ticket was bought at Tania's Pizza and Party Store in Royal Oak. If it hadn't been redeemed by 4:45 p.m. April 11, the $3.8 million would have gone into the state school aid fund. And store owner Ihsan Sheena would have lost out on a $2,000 bonus from the state for selling the winning ticket.
"I was afraid someone had lost it," Sheena said.
More than $31 million in Michigan Lottery prizes went unclaimed last year and $438 million since the lottery's inception in 1972, officials said.
Peters said he feels publicity about the unredeemed ticket [published in a Lottery Post news story on Monday] may have played a role in the ticket holder finding the lucky ticket.
If the ticket hadn't been redeemed by 4:45 p.m. April 11, the $3.8 million would have gone into the state school aid fund.
"It's interesting it went unclaimed that long and then was turned in after" the media exposure, Peters said.
The man would not discuss with lottery officials if he found the ticket after being alerted by the Lottery Post article and subsequent television coverage.
All three Detroit television stations aired segments about the missing tickets after the article appeared.
"He was a man of few words," Peters said.
Store owner Ihsan Sheena is happy the ticket was found and redeemed. He will collect a $2,000 bonus from the state for selling the winning ticket. Had the ticket not been turned in, Sheena would have lost the bonus.
"I was afraid someone had lost it," Sheena said. "I have no idea who had the ticket."
Lottery officials are urging players to check old tickets because there is still $3.1 million in winning Mega Millions, Fantasy 5, and WinFall tickets that have not been cashed in.
The next big ticket that will expire is a $175,000 Mega Millions winner sold for the July 2 drawing at Mr. C's Deli & Pizza in Clinton Township. The winning numbers were 10, 25, 38, 39, 50.
A $1.5 million winning Winfall ticket sold Jan. 8 at the Meijer's store on Little Mack in Roseville is still outstanding.
More than $31 million in winning tickets were unclaimed last year and $438 million since the lottery was started in 1972.
Peters said an interesting trend has occurred with winning secondary prizes of $10 or less. Last year, $3.1 million in small-denomination winning tickets were not cashed in, Peter said.
"People are playing for the big jackpots, but overlooking the smaller prizes," Peters said.