Includes video report
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — A Florida man finally has his lottery prize after a local media investigation exposed a state error.
"I can't believe I have the money," Joel Strickland of Winter Haven said.
When Strickland won $1,000 in the lottery in 2017, state officials seized the money, saying he owed the state $5,300 to settle an old unemployment fraud claim.
Strickland insisted there was an error and that he didn't owe anything, but the state's case was closed. Officials not only took his lottery money, but said he owed the balance of this debt.
He says he was told that since this was old debt, they wouldn't have tried to collect it. However, when his name came up as a lottery winner, his name was checked and was on the state's list of debtors.
Strickland tried to fight for his money for a year, and after failing to get his money, he contacted a local media investigative column named "Better Call Behnken". The state told Investigative Reporter Shannon Behnken they would reopen his case, but there were denials, promises and more denials before his check finally arrived.
"I got in from work Friday evening and opened the mailbox and thought, 'Thank you, Jesus,'" he said.
VIDEO: Watch the report