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Lost lottery ticket worth $25,000 returned to owner

Texas LotteryTexas Lottery: Lost lottery ticket worth $25,000 returned to owner

Mike Sargent doesn't put much stock in karma. Luck isn't his thing either.

But in getting back a lost winning lottery ticket worth $25,000, a little of both may have come into play — along with some divine intervention.

Like the lead character in the new NBC sitcom My Name is Earl, Sargent lost the scratch-off ticket moments after he realized he'd hit the jackpot and, through several incredible coincidences, had it returned days later.

In the television show, losing the ticket inspires Earl, a downtrodden ne'er-do-well and petty thief, to right the wrongs he's committed throughout his life.

Sargent, a 51-year-old facilities specialist at AT&T, has demons in his past as well. A former drug addict and alcoholic, he admits being verbally abusive to his wife and two sons until he turned his life around 19 years ago, entering rehab and embracing his Christian faith.

Friends and his pastor's wife say he's now generous to a fault, giving to others even if it means doing without himself. He and his wife buy groceries for the church's needy families, and they set up a prison ministry shortly after their older son was sentenced a decade ago to 99 years behind bars for telling a friend to kill another boy.

"It doesn't matter, he'll put it on his credit card if you need anything," said Judy Russell, whose husband, Joe, is pastor of Calvary Temple in Lillian.

Sargent bought the winning Wheel of Fortune instant ticket on Nov. 15, scratching it off as he stood at the counter of the Venus Food Mart in his hometown of Alvarado, about 25 miles south of Fort Worth. He signed the ticket on the spot, filling in his name and address as he called his wife and said he was bringing her the best Christmas present ever.

By the time he drove the three miles home, however, the ticket was gone.

"I didn't know where it went," Sargent said. "I was thinking that God just took it out of my hand."

Sargent went back to the store, but the clerk was sure he'd left with the ticket. It was a windy night, so he dropped some losing tickets on the ground to see where they'd blow. As luck would have it, they wouldn't budge.

Still, he and a friend from church spent the rest of the night searching the fields along U.S. Highway 67, even calling 911 and asking the volunteer fire department to shine its fire truck lights on the search area after darkness fell. (The firefighters declined.)

The search continued for days. Friends combed the fields and roadside ditches, while Sargent and his neighbor sifted through all the garbage in the convenience store's Dumpster.

He posted signs all over town and even called a local radio station offering a $2,000 reward for the return of his ticket.

Finally, five days after he lost the ticket, Sargent got a call from Gerardo Ruiz, a water meter reader from Midlothian who found it while working five houses down from the store.

Ruiz hadn't seen the signs or heard Sargent on the radio. And his first thought wasn't to give the ticket back.

"I went home and I showed my wife and I said 'Look, Jesus gave us a $25,000 ticket,'" Ruiz recalled. "She said 'Well you better call that guy, maybe you can get a reward, because God is going to punish you if you don't return it.'"

When Ruiz asked for $2,500, Sargent didn't hesitate. He visited eight banks before he found one willing to give him a cash advance on his credit card, then he paid Ruiz, took back the ticket and immediately wrote a $1,750 check to his church.

His saga wasn't over, however. Between the time Sargent signed the ticket and when he got it back, his signature was partially scratched off; Ruiz speculated it happened when he stepped on the ticket with heavy work boots.

When Sargent took the ticket to the Texas Lottery's claims center in Austin on Nov. 21, officials told him they couldn't immediately honor a defaced ticket. He'd have to wait six to eight weeks for them to conduct forensic tests and prove he was the one who'd signed the ticket.

"What we want to do is to make sure, because of the integrity and the honesty and the security of the games, that the person that is the rightful owner of the ticket receives the funds if it is a valid winning ticket," lottery spokesman Bobby Heith said.

Sargent is hoping he gets the money in time for Christmas, but he and his wife aren't going to buy each other extravagant gifts. Instead, they plan to help a prisoner get a paralegal certificate and use the rest to pay off their credit card debt.

And he doubts he'll ever buy another lottery ticket.

"I kind of feel that I should have been using that for our charities instead of just throwing the money away," he said. "I think God was telling me ... that I need to be dependent on him and not on lotteries and jobs and anything else. God will always provide for me."

AP

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8 comments. Last comment 11 years ago by TigerAngel.
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Avatar
Sparta, NJ
United States
Member #18331
July 9, 2005
1977 Posts
Offline
Posted: December 9, 2005, 7:29 am - IP Logged

Hummm, one of the nce stories.  People will occassionally show their good side and when they do, it should be 10 inch headlines in the New York Times.  $2.5K or not, he did the right thing.

Cheers

|||::> *'`*:-.,_,.-:*''*:--->>> Chewie  <<<---.*''*:-.,_,.-:*''* <:::|||

I only trust myself - and that's a questionable choice

    BabyJC's avatar - Lottery-031.jpg

    United States
    Member #3271
    January 7, 2004
    148 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: December 9, 2005, 12:17 pm - IP Logged

    I don't think this is a nice story.  It sounds like the guy who found the winning ticket on the ground first tried to scratch the winner's signature off the ticket; when it was likely getting difficult and the ticket was also getting ruined, he then went to "plan B" instead -- contacting the winner to ask (read demand) $2,500 instead.  And now the winner's winnings are all tied-up in red tape because of it. Bah-humbug!

      Avatar

      United States
      Member #24503
      October 23, 2005
      159 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: December 10, 2005, 12:06 pm - IP Logged

      I don't think this is a nice story.  It sounds like the guy who found the winning ticket on the ground first tried to scratch the winner's signature off the ticket; when it was likely getting difficult and the ticket was also getting ruined, he then went to "plan B" instead -- contacting the winner to ask (read demand) $2,500 instead.  And now the winner's winnings are all tied-up in red tape because of it. Bah-humbug!

      .. yeah.  that 'partially scratched off' name is the clue-in.

       

      well, at least he got some of it back.  this is a bad thing to say, but this is how i feel:  bad karma to the ***hole who tried to steal something that wasn't his.  people are greedy.  reminds me of the elecia battle thing, when people were searching for that lost lottery ticket and talking about keeping it for themselves if they found it. 

        Sentia's avatar - praying hands.jpg
        New Member
        Oregon
        United States
        Member #27005
        November 25, 2005
        22 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: December 10, 2005, 12:42 pm - IP Logged

        "I kind of feel that I should have been using that for our charities instead of just throwing the money away," he said. "I think God was telling me ... that I need to be dependent on him and not on lotteries and jobs and anything else. God will always provide for me."

        Now that he's won, he considers playing the lottery to be "throwing the money away."  Ironic.  I would hope that he would consider himself blessed.  God did in fact provide for him by giving him a winning $25,000 ticket.  I've always heard that God works in mysterious ways.  The lottery is just one of those ways.


          United States
          Member #379
          June 5, 2002
          11296 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: December 11, 2005, 3:25 pm - IP Logged

          "I kind of feel that I should have been using that for our charities instead of just throwing the money away," he said. "I think God was telling me ... that I need to be dependent on him and not on lotteries and jobs and anything else. God will always provide for me."

          Now that he's won, he considers playing the lottery to be "throwing the money away."  Ironic.  I would hope that he would consider himself blessed.  God did in fact provide for him by giving him a winning $25,000 ticket.  I've always heard that God works in mysterious ways.  The lottery is just one of those ways.

          He doesn't remember how he lost the ticket?

          If you want to throw your money away in NY, play Lotto 6/59.

            mylollipop's avatar - Trek STLOGO6.png

            United States
            Member #24380
            October 21, 2005
            623 Posts
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            Posted: December 22, 2005, 2:58 am - IP Logged

            God, was perhaps showing you that He provides.  Did you thank God for the winnings before you ran to tell the wifey?  Maybe you took all for granted.  Believe me, if God did not want you to have it, you would not have gotten it back.  This was a wise investment; now make sure you use what was given to you in a way that glorifies God's name.  You were financially blessed!Blue AngelBlue AngelBlue Angel

              Avatar
              New Mexico
              United States
              Member #12305
              March 10, 2005
              2984 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: December 25, 2005, 4:50 pm - IP Logged

              God, was perhaps showing you that He provides.  Did you thank God for the winnings before you ran to tell the wifey?  Maybe you took all for granted.  Believe me, if God did not want you to have it, you would not have gotten it back.  This was a wise investment; now make sure you use what was given to you in a way that glorifies God's name.  You were financially blessed!Blue AngelBlue AngelBlue Angel

              Maybe God was just providing contrast between signing a ticket and losing it, and throwing it away without signing it to have it found by a dumpster-diver.

              Or maybe God didn't want this guy to have this ticket back, but the meter reader was an agent of Satan, brought it back to lay claim to the guy's soul.

              Or maybe it wasn't so much God at work here, as just the Coincidence Coordinators coordinating things in such a way as to provide amusement and edification to LP members.  Who ended up with the ticket wasn't so important as whether it made good reading.

              Jack

              Absorb the good, ignore the bad, weigh the ugly.

              It's about number behavior.

              Egos don't count.

               

              Dedicated to the memory of Big Loooser

               

                TigerAngel's avatar - tiger andfairy.jpg
                california
                United States
                Member #23475
                October 13, 2005
                659 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: December 25, 2005, 5:41 pm - IP Logged

                "I kind of feel that I should have been using that for our charities instead of just throwing the money away," he said. "I think God was telling me ... that I need to be dependent on him and not on lotteries and jobs and anything else. God will always provide for me."

                Now that he's won, he considers playing the lottery to be "throwing the money away."  Ironic.  I would hope that he would consider himself blessed.  God did in fact provide for him by giving him a winning $25,000 ticket.  I've always heard that God works in mysterious ways.  The lottery is just one of those ways.

                I Agree!

                Blue Angel  "if you can hold it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand"