Credit card purchase key to tracking down winner
An unbelievable set of circumstances have come together for Kathryn Jones, who won $50 million from an unclaimed Lotto Max prize drawn a year ago — a win for which she lost the ticket and never checked the numbers.
The Hamilton woman had absolutely no clue she could be a winner when Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation officials showed up at her door a while back wanting to talk to her, she said Tuesday at a news conference at the OLG headquarters in Toronto.
Jones said she and her husband, Richard, weren't sure they even wanted to let the officials into the house until they showed identification and convinced her they were the real deal.
"I honestly thought, 'You've got the wrong person,'" she recalled.
They asked her about her buying pattern for Lotto tickets, whether she still had her ticket, and a few other questions before she had to rush out and leave them to talk further with her husband. She had to leave for a business trip and the cab taking her to the airport had arrived, she said.
It wasn't until the next day, when she spoke to Richard, that she learned he had checked the OLG website and learned there was an unclaimed prize of $50 million from around the time she bought her ticket at a Shoppers Drug Mart on Dundas St. in Cambridge, where she works as an engineer.
"I kept thinking: This is unreal. It must be a mistake," said Jones, 55.
She still doesn't know where the ticket is, though she has since searched her house thoroughly. "It's not there."
The OLG found her after investigating a claim they had received for the unclaimed $50 million prize. That months-long investigation led them to Jones.
They knew exactly where, what day, and at what time the ticket was purchased. They also knew it was the only $16 ticket purchase that day at the Shoppers Drug Mart, and that the $16 ticket contained the winning jackpot numbers from the Nov. 30, 2012, Lotto Max draw.
Equally important, they knew it was paid for with a credit card. That's how they found Jones, who said she normally buys Lotto tickets randomly, and with cash. But that day, she had purchased a few other items at the drugstore and decided to pay the full bill by credit card, she said.
Investigators also obtained the store's video surveillance, which shows Jones buying the ticket at the precise time the winning ticket was purchased.
Since the announcement of the winning ticket on Nov. 30 of last year, 435 people inquired about the prize, but Jones never did.
Had she paid with cash, they might not have found her, said Mike Hamel, head of OLG's corporate investigations. Using a credit card "made it a lot easier" to find her, he said.
It is the first time OLG has approached a lottery winner instead of the other way around.
On Thursday, Nov. 28, lottery officials certified Jones as the winner.
It also conducted an independent review after learning Jones' sister owns a retail outlet in Ottawa that sells OLG lottery tickets.
There are no issues preventing a prize payout to Jones, other than a 30-day waiting period for OLG to publicize the claim to make sure no one else comes forward. If there are no additional valid claims in the 30 days, Jones will receive her prize in January.
She is still in disbelief and said she hasn't thought about what she might do with the money or whether she'll quit her job.
She was joined after the OLG news conference by Richard Jones, 54, also an engineer, who works in Hamilton.
"It's been a great story... who would have thought?" he said. "It's only been the last few days we've known for sure."
Kathy Jones said the couple told their two grown children — both in university — on the weekend about the win. "My son gave me a lecture on being responsible," she said. But other than that, he's more concerned about getting through exams right now, she said.
She said she is "extremely appreciative and very thankful" of the OLG investigation. "It's incredible."
She also said the family would like to live as normally as possible over the next month and through the Christmas holidays.
Rod Phillips, OLG's president and CEO, when asked if there's something peculiar about Hamilton to produce as many lottery winners as it has lately, jovially said, "We've been wondering that ourselves. Must be the clean living . . . I think they're just lucky."
(Click to display full-size in gallery)