BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — A $1 million scratch ticket was recently sold in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, but despite regulations requiring the Massachusetts State Lottery to disclose big winners we may never know who purchased the winning ticket.
In a picture published on the Lottery's website announcing the winning, it is not the winner accepting the prize money. Instead, it is Brady McDevitt, an attorney and the trustee of The Apple Nominee Trust of Milton.
McDevitt was able to accept the check as a trustee on the winner's behalf because the winner decided to go the increasingly popular route of forming a trust to claim their prize.
Although Lottery regulations state that a claimant's name, city or town, image, amount of prize, claim date and game are all public record, trusts have become a common tool for winners to skirt the rules and remain their anonymity when claiming a big prize.
"Trusts and other legal entities fulfill the definition of a legal person," said Christian Teja, the director of communications for the Massachusetts Lottery. "Consequently trusts are allowed to claim Lottery prizes."
The rules requiring the public disclosure of Lottery players who win big money were originally put in place to promote transparency and create confidence that the games are being run fairly and winnings aren't going to Lottery employees who are barred from playing.
"The reason they have that rule is so the public knows that there is not some fraudulent scheme going on where people in the Lottery or a certain group of people are always winning like it's a scam," McDevitt said.
McDevitt, who has accepted two $1 million prizes this month as a trustee of the behalf of clients who set up trusts to collect their winnings, said that legal entities like corporations or LLCs — limited liability companies — can also be used to collect prizes, but trusts are the most popular choice because they are the easiest to set up.
"You have a little more freedom and you don't have to file anything or have any filing fees with the state," McDevitt said, adding that a trust can be set up in matter of days.
Teja said that typically less than 10 people will use a trust to claim their prize every year, but that the number has been inching up in recent years.
So far in 2015, 12 trusts have accepted a total of $32 million on behalf of Lottery winners. There have been more than 150 $1 million Lottery winners to date this year.
Teja said that trusts can be set up by winners for a variety of reasons, including for financial planning purposes or legal protection if a person is sharing the winnings with other people. However, the most popular reason appears to be so that people can maintain their anonymity.
"The main reason my clients have done it have not been financial planning reasons. It has just been so they don't have to have their picture taken or have any publicity with it," said McDevitt
Many Lottery winners who seek anonymity after winning a big prize due so out of safety concerns.
"One of the clients I have done it for had won (the Lottery) previously, and it had gotten to the point where she had to call the police because someone was stalking her," McDevitt said.
During her campaign in 2014, Treasurer Deb Goldberg weighed in on whether she thought winners should be able to accept the prize via trust, and argued that even if a trust is used the identity of the winner should be made public.
However, neither the Lottery nor the Legislature have moved to make the issue more transparent, and one legislator has even filed legislation that would make it even more difficult for the public to find out who won a big prize.
In April, state Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, filed a bill that would no longer make the identity of Lottery winners public record if passed.
The bill states in part "the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission shall not publicly disclose the name, address or other identifying information of any holder of a winning ticket or require any winning ticket holder to perform any public actions in connection with the awarding, payment or collection of prize moneys where a holder of a winning ticket provides a written request to the Commission."