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Massachusetts Lottery winners increasingly opting to stay anonymous

May 14, 2018, 8:20 am

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Some people can't believe David Spillane's luck when it comes to the state lottery.

"People come up to me and say congratulations. How come you win over and over?" Spillane, a lawyer from Hanover, said in a recent interview.

Five times since Jan. 1, Spillane has gone to Massachusetts State Lottery headquarters in Braintree to claim a winning ticket. The total windfall to date is $6 million.

Each time, the state Lottery has distributed to the press and posted on its website the standard grip-and-grin photo of Spillane holding a large mock-up of the winning ticket and an actual check for the winnings.

The truth is that, while Spillane is the one holding the checks, they're never made out to him. Each time, he is a stand-in for the winners.

Lottery winnings are a public record. Win a big enough prize and the Lottery will distribute your name and photo to the media. But if a winner forms a type of legal trust prior to claiming the prize, the Lottery will publicize the name of that trust, not the names of any individuals involved in it.

Winners still get the money, but they don't have to deal with the resulting loss of privacy that comes from being publicly identified as being suddenly flush with cash.

Spillane points to the example of Mavis Wanczyk of Chicopee, who last year won a record $758 million in a Powerball drawing. Her one-time payout was $336.3 million after taxes.

Not long after the prize was announced, state officials issued warnings about a slew of scam accounts on social media impersonating Wanczyk. Meanwhile, Chicopee police increased patrols around the winner's home, with officers often pulling into her driveway to do paperwork. Even so, there were a few reports of strangers wandering through the neighborhood, knocking on the doors of her neighbors.

To avoid these types of trouble, winners can choose to form a nominee trust, a legal arrangement in which one or more people appoint someone to act on their behalf. This person, the trustee, is listed on the legal title and other documents, but all beneficiaries remain confidential.

In the case of Lottery winnings, the trustee turns in the winning ticket, receives a check, and deposits it into a bank account set up for the beneficiaries. After that, the trust arrangement more or less concludes.

Spillane has been in the nominee trust business for 15 years or so. The first prize he claimed on behalf of a trust was in 2003, he said.

His work, from beginning to end, usually takes a just a few hours. The most complicated part of it is setting up a tax identification number for the ticket holder. Spillane is paid his regular hourly rate, and not a percentage of any winnings.

"I go to the Lottery, claim the ticket, go to the bank, open an account, and give the winner the money," he said.

And he has to pose for the photograph, which is sent out to the media and posted on the Lottery website.

Spillane said he has probably set up 17 lottery trusts, including a $15 million winner in 2015. He accepted a one-time payout in the form of a $9.75 million check on behalf of the WCM Nominee Trust of Hanover.

The work, he said, comes in spurts. This year has been busy with five trusts, but he didn't have a single lottery client in 2017.

The use of trusts has increased significantly as more and more winners look to avoid the spotlight.

In 2010, according to Lottery data, trusts accounted for nine of 332 grand prizes claimed. That works out to 2.7 percent. By 2017, trusts made up 43 of the 422 grand prizes, or 10.2 percent.

Through April 25 of this year, 17 of 135 grand prizes were claimed by trusts, or 12.6 percent.

For all but one of the 17 trust winners, the prize has been claimed by a lawyer. Spillane handled five of them.

The one nonlawyer trustee was Jenna Russell of Hopedale, who won a $1 million Second Chance prize in the Lottery's Ultimate Millions game. Russell claimed the prize on behalf of the Otto Educational Trust, which was named after her bulldog.

Spillane emphasized that forming a trust to claim a prize is legal and no one is trying to pull a fast one. These are people, he said, who simply want to remain private.

"Each story is different. Everyone who does this has their own reasons. There are all kinds of different reasons," he said.

He represented one couple who didn't even want their kids to know. They had been planning to build a house on Cape Cod anyway, and after winning the Lottery they made the house a little bigger and their mortgage payments a little smaller. "And no one knew any different," Spillane said.

Lottery spokesman Christian Teja said the secrecy involving trusts only has to do with public disclosure. All members of a trust are required to be identified by the Lottery for its internal records.

The Lottery runs the names of those in a trust past other state agencies, including the state Department of Revenue, the Child Support Enforcement Division, Office of the State Comptroller and the Department of Transitional Assistance. A review is conducted to see if any of the names owe the state money for child support, income taxes, tuition and fees at state colleges, or Mass Health payments. Anyone on the list has the amount owed garnished from their winnings.

Policies vary from state to state insofar as lottery winners being allowed to remain anonymous. Six states -- Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina -- allow lottery winners to remain anonymous.

There are a number of other states that, like Massachusetts, allow trusts to claim winnings as long as a representative of the trust publicly comes forward to claim it. These include Colorado, Connecticut and Vermont.

Some states, like Illinois and Oregon, allow a winner to remain anonymous if the person can demonstrate that public disclosure would expose them to a high risk of harm.

In Massachusetts, state Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, last year filed a bill that would make a Lottery winner's name, address and any other identifying information exempt from state public records laws. It would also direct the Lottery not to publicly disclose winners' identities, or require winners "to perform any public actions in connection with awarding payment or the collection of prize moneys." The bill was forwarded to the Senate Rules Committee in August, and has not been acted upon.

There are numerous reports over the years of lottery winners being swindled, or blowing it all quickly, or of being harassed and hassled by people with sob stories and outstretched palms. Local journalists know there is practically no lag time between when someone claims a big prize and when they change their phone number.

Teja said the Lottery's philosophy is that providing the name and photo of major prize winners is in keeping with its desire to operate transparently.

"Providing a public record of winners is important to the integrity and public trust of our games," he said.

Spillane said he feels the opposite. The publicity and loss of privacy that comes with a big payout is not worth it.

"Look at that lady in Chicopee. Ask her what her life was like after she won," he said. "It was not good. She had police cars outside of her house for months."

Spillane said for him the question isn't why trusts are becoming more popular. The question is what took so long.

"Why would I want you to know my financial information?" he said. "Why is that your business?"

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11 comments. Last comment 2 years ago by dannyct.
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Avatar
Simpsonville
United States
Member #163184
January 22, 2015
2207 Posts
Online
Posted: May 14, 2018, 8:34 am - IP Logged

Going to have to remember Spillane when win on one of my Season Tickets from Massachusetts...long overdue for a trip home!

One point I didn't understand is it mentioned the difficult part was setting up a tax identification number?  Isn't that the winner's SSAN  or is it because it is set up through a trust?  One of you smart LP member please enlighten me.

Mr. Spillane sounds like a reasonable man to me and can't wait to meet him personally.

    Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
    100
    Zeta Reticuli Star System
    United States
    Member #30469
    January 17, 2006
    11483 Posts
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    Posted: May 14, 2018, 10:09 am - IP Logged

    All American lotteries should do what Australia does, put a NP (No publicity) option on the play slip. 

    Regardless of the state that would leave it up to the players.

    Those who run the lotteries love it when players look for consistency in something that's designed not to have any. So many systems, so many theories, so few jackpot winners. 

    Lep

    There is one and only one 'proven' system, and that is to book the action. No matter the game, let the players pick their own losers.

      music*'s avatar - DiscoBallGlowing
      Fresno, California
      United States
      Member #157851
      August 2, 2014
      3869 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: May 14, 2018, 10:12 am - IP Logged

      David Spillane Esq. can expect more business because his stories are being promoted here on Lottery Post and elsewhere. 

       I need to talk with my State Assemblyperson and State Senator. Get California to make changes.

       Mavis Wanczyk of Chicopee should have slowed down and sought professional help before claiming her record prize. Lottery Officials cannot help a winner they are restricted to only give advice if that. 

       Act and think like a winner. ASAP starting now. 

       Would a millionaire agree to a grip and grin photo shoot or a media interview? NO!! Not if they can avoid it legally.

      No No 

      When will COVID-19 be finished?  A vaccine may protect all of us.

        Avatar
        Chasing $ Millions.
        White Shores- California
        United States
        Member #136473
        December 12, 2012
        6219 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: May 14, 2018, 10:22 am - IP Logged

        All American lotteries should do what Australia does, put a NP (No publicity) option on the play slip. 

        Regardless of the state that would leave it up to the players.

        I Agree!-  Australia lottery setup is the way to go. I am so against this CA lottery " transparency" BS, it' s not at all funny. I don't see people standing in line at the bank asking the person next to them" So how much do you have in your savings account?" It's private, and so should your jackpot winnings be. Btw- Spillane looks a little like the Chief bottle washer, cousins twice removed.

         * Voice of Reason *   

         

        People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it- George Bernard Shaw.

          Avatar
          New Member
          Paramus, NJ
          United States
          Member #171556
          January 9, 2016
          20 Posts
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          Posted: May 14, 2018, 12:24 pm - IP Logged

          This would be only way we claim any prize. I would like people to leave us alone if we do win. As fun, 3 of us had been putting in $5 per week for several months now and we agreed on creating trust for a worthy prize. I am hoping this would be the week. Dance

          It puzzles me, people are willingly post their pics on lottery site with $1k scratch offs or under $100k jackpots and states enforcing this.

            KY Floyd's avatar - lysol avatar.jpg
            NY
            United States
            Member #23834
            October 16, 2005
            4246 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: May 14, 2018, 12:48 pm - IP Logged

            "Isn't that the winner's SSAN  "

            The trust is a legal entity, just like a person or a corporation, and gets it's own taxpayer identification number. Like a corporation, a trust can be owned by multiple people, and in that case the SSN of any one owner/member wouldn't work even if a trust could just use a person's SSN.

            " just a few hours ... Spillane is paid his regular hourly rate, and not a percentage of any winnings."

            What a bargain. I'm sure that people who win a million bucks wouldn't get the same hassles as somebody who wins $100 million, but as their proxy I'd think the guy has to deal with a bit of BS from people looking for handouts and the media wanting to know about the winners. I wonder if he bills additional hours down the road based on that. I know I wouldn't let my name be put out there in connection to  a prize of a $1 to $15 million for a few grand.

            "a bill that would make a Lottery winner's name, address and any other identifying information exempt from state public records laws."

            I'm now curious about what the various state laws and regulations actually say about releasing winners' names. We've all read plenty of stories that say a lottery is required to release winners' information, but I eventually got a chance to read the ruling in the NH lawsuit over disclosing the winner's name and found out that there wasn't actually a law requiring disclosure. There's a public records law that requires the state to make most information about the state's business dealings available to the public, and the lottery simply interpreted that law as requiring them to release winners names in order to comply with that law. That means that rather than striking down a law requiring disclosure the judge simply ruled that lottery winners qualify for an exemption that already existed in the public records law. It's  That the MA bill would exempt winners suggests that the "rules" about disclosure in MA are similar to those of NH.

            In any state where that's the case a winner might have a decent shot at getting a similar ruling if they challenged a policy requiring disclosure, but it's important to note that the judge in NH made specific reference to the ability of winners to shield their identities by claiming through a trust. Perhaps the judge would have ruled in favor of the lottery if the disclosure wasn't effectively a penalty against winners who weren't smart enough to claim as a trust.

              CDanaT's avatar - Nolz june15.jpg
              Central TN
              United States
              Member #121189
              January 4, 2012
              4610 Posts
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              Posted: May 14, 2018, 1:15 pm - IP Logged

              Nice story.............. Spillane is a sharp man to offer his services and smart folks are apparently taking him up on his offer..Good for them... Stay anonymous, avoid the "look what I won/pay attention to me" mentality. Don't take a chance and become one of those those winners who wished they had never won or worse, one who ended up deceased. 

              Integrity: There is just no substitute.

                LottoLucy's avatar - hereslucy header.jpg

                United States
                Member #131590
                August 14, 2012
                317 Posts
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                Posted: May 14, 2018, 9:55 pm - IP Logged

                Going to have to remember Spillane when win on one of my Season Tickets from Massachusetts...long overdue for a trip home!

                One point I didn't understand is it mentioned the difficult part was setting up a tax identification number?  Isn't that the winner's SSAN  or is it because it is set up through a trust?  One of you smart LP member please enlighten me.

                Mr. Spillane sounds like a reasonable man to me and can't wait to meet him personally.

                The trust becomes a legal entity that kind of takes on a life of its own and can even survive you after death so it has a separate number than the person who forms it.

                Getting the taxpayer ID number for the trust may be the most complicated part of setting up the trust but it isn’t all that complicated.  You just fill out a form from the IRS.  If you do it online you can get your number instantly.

                It is nice he only charges his usual hourly rate.  He seems like a reasonable guy.

                Lotto Lucy

                  Avatar
                  Chasing $ Millions.
                  White Shores- California
                  United States
                  Member #136473
                  December 12, 2012
                  6219 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: May 14, 2018, 11:27 pm - IP Logged

                  "imagine being a jackpot winner, and having the police increase their patrol presence in your neighborhood, and not just that, but on occasions to pull into your driveway and do paperwork." Oh Lordy. If ever there was a good reason for jackpot anonymity- that's it right there!

                   * Voice of Reason *   

                   

                  People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it- George Bernard Shaw.

                    Avatar
                    Simpsonville
                    United States
                    Member #163184
                    January 22, 2015
                    2207 Posts
                    Online
                    Posted: May 15, 2018, 8:46 am - IP Logged

                    Homeboy had to look up Hanover, MA...never heard of it.  Anyway not too far from Lottery Headquarters in Braintree, MA.  Hope to visit him one day....just saying.

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                      Northern Beaches
                      Australia
                      Member #187037
                      January 9, 2018
                      122 Posts
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                      Posted: May 20, 2018, 7:22 pm - IP Logged

                      It is extremely dangerous for lottery winners to be identified, especially if it is a large amount. Winners who are coming to terms with sudden wealth, and how to handle it, have enough to deal with. The last thing they need, is relatives asking for "help". They also become targets for scamers and dangerous criminals. Such information should be exempt from public disclosure records. In the UK and Australia, winners automatically have the right to anonymity. They can choose publicity if they wish, but very few do so.