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Thinking of going off the grid after winning the lottery? Not so fast

Apr 25, 2019, 3:29 pm

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Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Thinking of going off the grid after winning the lottery? Not so fastRating:

Everyone dreams of it: having a small piece of paper with the right numbers printed on it and winning the life-changing $200 million, $700 million or $1 billion jackpot. But what happens after you win?

Many winners decide to remain anonymous — or at least try to — but that can be difficult when many states demand that the winners of large jackpots show their faces at news conferences.

At his own news conference in Madison, Wis., Manuel Franco, 24, who in a Powerball drawing last month won $768 million, the third-largest jackpot in United States lottery history, seemed to be trying not to divulge too much information about himself, perhaps to keep random family members from coming out of the woodwork. Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, he declined to say where he grew up, where he lived, what kind of car he drove or where he used to work. (He quit two days after winning.)

Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Texas, North Dakota and Ohio allow lottery winners to conceal their identities if the winnings exceed a certain dollar amount, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Other states, like New York, make it easy for winners to collect their prizes under the cover of an L.L.C. or an entity. But states like Wisconsin want winners to come forward to claim their prizes, although Wisconsin does not require them to appear at a news conference as Mr. Franco did.

After Mr. Franco's $768 million win, "it seems a little ridiculous that there isn't privacy when it comes to that," Gary Tauchen, a Wisconsin state representative, said. "Certainly you have a lot of fourth and fifth cousins and it is just a situation when you're under high stress."

While Mr. Franco was answering questions about his lottery winnings as concisely as possible, Mr. Tauchen was introducing a bill seeking to ensure the privacy of lottery winners in Wisconsin.

"I know that it is one of those life-changing experiences when you need some time to adjust," Mr. Tauchen said. "You don't need the stress of other people putting pressure on you."

And for jackpot winners like Mr. Franco, the pressure comes nearly immediately.

"For the next two weeks, people are going to be outside of his house," Jason M. Kurland, a lawyer who has represented several winners of large lottery jackpots, said on Wednesday.

"I get those letters every week," Mr. Kurland said, referring to the mail he receives intended for his clients. "They range from congratulatory letters to individuals having a tough time asking for handouts, to organizations looking for donations, to business men and women asking for investors."

Mr. Kurland, who calls himself the Lottery Lawyer and represented the person in South Carolina who won the $1.54 billion Mega Millions jackpot last year, advises his clients to delete all their social media accounts before they claim their winnings. He also tells them to try to remove their address from public view as much as they can and to get new phone numbers. If there are children involved, he will hire security for the first couple of days.

Mr. Kurland tries to help his clients retain some privacy after they win, but if privacy is hard to achieve in 2019, anonymity is nearly impossible.

"It is very hard to participate in civil life and be anonymous," Albert Gidari, the privacy director of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, said on Wednesday. "You can't buy a car in cash and avoid disclosing who you are because now car dealers are financial institutions," Mr. Gidari said, adding that it was nearly impossible to transfer money in and out of the United States without disclosing who you are to the government.

"He can get a lot of lawyers and accountants and figure out how to move and hide a lot of that money at great risk to himself for not complying with government reporting," Mr. Gidari said. "You can't get very far, but you can get far enough to get some degree of obscurity, even if you can't get anonymity."

Last year the winner of a $560 million Powerball jackpot in New Hampshire took the state to court to retain her anonymity while claiming her prize. The woman's lawyers argued that she would be accosted with requests for money, and the state argued that lottery winners must be disclosed to make sure that winners are not related to lottery employees and that winnings are distributed fairly. The court decided disclosing the winner's name would be an invasion of privacy and allowed the woman to anonymously claim her winnings.

"You want to be able to enjoy this crazy amount of money you luckily won, but at the same time you want to keep your privacy, so it's a balance," Mr. Kurland said.

But going off the grid, setting up shop on the beach and enjoying the fruits of your ticket are not necessarily possible without informing the government.

"If you leave the country, it's worse," Mr. Gidari said, adding that leaving the country and failing to report assets in the United States and abroad could lead to losing those assets.

"Because the I.R.S. will know all of this doesn't mean that the public will know all of this," Mr. Gidari said. "We still haven't seen Donald Trump's taxes."

Thanks to mikeintexas for the tip.

NY Times

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22 comments. Last comment 1 year ago by brees2012.
Page 1 of 2
zephbe's avatar - animal butterfly.jpg
South Carolina
United States
Member #77165
July 15, 2009
897 Posts
Offline

Some of the statements in the article seem to suggest ''going off grid" has to be something illegal--like hiding assets.  Where did that come from?  Don't most lawyers advise lottery winners to get away for a while to let the win sink in?  There is nothing illegal about that.

Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.-Rocky Balboa

“Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams talk you out of going after yours.” – Zig Ziglar

    hearsetrax's avatar - alien on_computer.jpg

    United States
    Member #52343
    May 21, 2007
    3285 Posts
    Offline

    😒well it certainly looks like Mr Franco and family are in for a bit of a rough virtual weather

    I wish them luck in making it through 

      music*'s avatar - DiscoBallGlowing
      USN United States Navy
      Fresno, California
      United States
      Member #157851
      August 2, 2014
      3959 Posts
      Offline

      Lottery Lawyer Jason Kurland knows what he is talking about. Manuel Franco hired Andrew Stoltmann another lawyer with experience helping past winners after they have been scammed. He knows how to proceed to avoid criminals. 

       Jason Kurland is very helpful. lotterylawyerjasonkurland.com 

       Here in California I will need an address in case the California Lottery mails me something. Like corrections to my claim. If I made a mistake somewhere. They will not use an email address. I will use UPS. 

       "We are all in this together!" 

        KY Floyd's avatar - lysol avatar.jpg
        NY
        United States
        Member #23834
        October 16, 2005
        4262 Posts
        Offline

        Either the Times as a whole or an editor and the reporter(s) who wrote the story seem to be confused about what going "off the grid" means. They seem to be confused about other things, too.

        "You can't buy a car in cash and avoid disclosing who you are"

        The car has to be registered and it has to be clear who owns it, so the car dealer obviously needs the name of the owner, which isn't necessarily the buyer, for the bill of sale. That owner can be an LLC or a trust, so the name the dealer gets doesn't have to be yours. Regardless of the cost you can pay cash. Any transaction over 10k will be reported to the government, but that name can also be the name of an LLC or a trust. The same is true for transferring money in or out of the country. The last two aren't very important in terms of being anonymous. You've got to declare the income from winning and the income you earn from investing the prize money, so the government already knows about your money. Feel free to distrust the government, but that information isn't available to the public.

        "I get those letters every week,"

        I've always been curious about how much winners need to pay for that. If somebody facilitates your anonymity by being the name behind a trust of LLC they get the exposure you're avoiding. Kurland's  staff isn't going to read all that mail or field phone calls intended for you for free. Even if I hired Kurland to do most of the work I'd be looking for a lawyer that has a name like John Smith or Bob Johnson and works in a large city, since it's really hard to contact the right  John Smith or Bob Johnson if the only thing you know is that they live in NYC.

          Teddi's avatar - Lottery-008.jpg

          United States
          Member #142495
          May 13, 2013
          1390 Posts
          Offline

          What a truly ridiculous and pointless story. Did we change "going off the grid" to mean "hiding assets" or "tax dodging"? Basically click bait

            Avatar
            New Member

            United States
            Member #197728
            April 25, 2019
            1 Posts
            Offline

            You need to add Wyoming to your list of states that you may conceal your identity. This has been so since July 1, 2013 when Wyoming joined the lotterysphere. All the news outlets also get this wrong probably because they get their info from your site. Please update the Lottery Post data base.

              Artist77's avatar - batman14

              United States
              Member #121741
              January 16, 2012
              7637 Posts
              Offline

              You need to add Wyoming to your list of states that you may conceal your identity. This has been so since July 1, 2013 when Wyoming joined the lotterysphere. All the news outlets also get this wrong probably because they get their info from your site. Please update the Lottery Post data base.

              Are you for real? Not a great first post.

              Je vous salue, Marie, pleine de grace.  We will rebuild!

                Teddi's avatar - Lottery-008.jpg

                United States
                Member #142495
                May 13, 2013
                1390 Posts
                Offline

                You need to add Wyoming to your list of states that you may conceal your identity. This has been so since July 1, 2013 when Wyoming joined the lotterysphere. All the news outlets also get this wrong probably because they get their info from your site. Please update the Lottery Post data base.

                Welcome See Ya!

                  Avatar
                  Chasing $ Millions.
                  White Shores- California
                  United States
                  Member #136473
                  December 12, 2012
                  6312 Posts
                  Offline

                  l found this surprising unless Franco was forced by the lottery folks to show his face to the press.

                  Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, he declined to say where he grew up, where he lived, what kind of car he drove or where he used to work. 

                  Wisconsin wants winners to come forward to claim their prizes, although Wisconsin does not require them to appear at a news conference as Mr. Franco did.

                   He could have done this, or maybe it was not allowed.

                  Image result for buxton lottery winner
                  Image result for lottery disguises
                  Lottery winner claims $1.17 million ...

                   * Voice of Reason *   

                   

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

                    Avatar
                    Kentucky
                    United States
                    Member #32651
                    February 14, 2006
                    8964 Posts
                    Offline

                    l found this surprising unless Franco was forced by the lottery folks to show his face to the press.

                    Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, he declined to say where he grew up, where he lived, what kind of car he drove or where he used to work. 

                    Wisconsin wants winners to come forward to claim their prizes, although Wisconsin does not require them to appear at a news conference as Mr. Franco did.

                     He could have done this, or maybe it was not allowed.

                    Image result for buxton lottery winner
                    Image result for lottery disguises
                    Lottery winner claims $1.17 million ...

                    Seriously has to be someone's wife or daughter.

                      maximumfun's avatar - Lottery-030.jpg

                      United States
                      Member #124612
                      March 16, 2012
                      3713 Posts
                      Offline

                      Some of these posts do not make "Lottery Lawyer Jason Kurland" sound like the person I would either go to, or recommend...

                        music*'s avatar - DiscoBallGlowing
                        USN United States Navy
                        Fresno, California
                        United States
                        Member #157851
                        August 2, 2014
                        3959 Posts
                        Offline

                        Some of these posts do not make "Lottery Lawyer Jason Kurland" sound like the person I would either go to, or recommend...

                        Please contact Jason Kurland before you strike him off your list. 

                         I live in CA and can say NO to the Media Availability and the Photo Celebrity. My name will be in Cyber Space forever. For anyone who googles it. 

                         I hope that in the future I will look back at these days as lucky and pleasurable with good memories. 

                         Mark Gardiner from Britain has been a major winner for about twenty-five years and he still feels like he is in a dream. He will wake up and be back at his normal job and life. LOL!

                         The winners who we never hear from like Brad Duke, the West family, John and Lisa Robinson, and others stay out of the lime light and off the police blotters and the news. 

                         "We are all in this together!" 

                          Avatar
                          DMV
                          United States
                          Member #183847
                          August 18, 2017
                          284 Posts
                          Offline

                          Some of these posts do not make "Lottery Lawyer Jason Kurland" sound like the person I would either go to, or recommend...

                          Agreed I mean if I'm seeking anonymity the last thing I would want to do I use the lawyer who's name comes up most often. Plus I feel like he's always saying too much and giving away too much info unless he's just spitting lies or random facts back to the public when asked about his clients.

                            CDanaT's avatar - Nolz june15.jpg
                            Central TN
                            United States
                            Member #121189
                            January 4, 2012
                            4737 Posts
                            Offline

                            I tend to believe the "off the grid" comment for U.S resident lottery winners has been applied to residing here in the USA and keeping away from being in the public eye (interviews/social media/lottery shows/etc etc) not necessarily moving out of the country. To each his own on that one. Why Franco's Atty had him conduct a "here I am/look at me" public appearance if it isn't required, is beyond me. I am thankful he's not my lawyer and definitely not my circus to contend with. I suppose there is an end goal to his decisions but I am baffled as to what they are. I would completely agree with them on getting new phone numbers.............. As far as being a Jackpot winner, I'm sticking with the "silence is golden" theory, even with close relatives.

                            Integrity: There is just no substitute.