Mystery of the unclaimed $1.34B Mega Millions jackpot deepens as lottery bosses urge players to check tickets
DES PLAINES, ILLINOIS — Lottery bosses are urging players to check their tickets as the winner of last month's $1.34 billion Mega Millions jackpot still hasn't claimed their prize more than 30 days on.
The lucky ticket was reportedly sold at the Speedy Café Speedway gas station on E Touhy Avenue, in Des Plaines -- a suburb of Chicago, located just north of O'Hare International Airport -- last month. Illinoisans who win a jackpot of over $250,000 can choose to remain anonymous under state law, but the winner of the massive jackpot hasn't yet indicated they are aware of the enormous fortune that awaits them. The $1.34 billion jackpot comes to $780.5 million after withholdings, and players are given a year from the drawing to claim their lottery.
Lottery officials urge winners to sign the back of their tickets once a ticket ends up being a winner. They are also asked to seek legal advice and then make an appointment with the Illinois Lottery to claim their prize. "We don't know whether or not they even know that they won a prize," Harold Mays, director of the Illinois Department of the Lottery said on July 30, a day after the winning ticket was sold. "So, I encourage everybody to check your ticket." As mentioned, there is no immediate rush considering the winner has a full year from the date of the draw to claim their prize. And while some states force the winner to reveal their identity and thereby endanger their safety, that is not the case in Illinois.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, workers at the gas station did not want to comment on who may have won the billion-dollar lottery but noted the station will receive their own bonus of $500,000 for selling the winning ticket. As mentioned, the gas station is part of the Speedway franchise, which operates more than 2,700 stores and 77 Speedy Cafes across the US. The winning numbers for the jackpot were 13-36-45-57-67, with a Mega Ball of 14.
Some legal experts said the winner should keep a low profile. Lawyer Walt Blenner, who has worked with lottery winners in the past, said it would be best for the lucky player to get out of town for a while to keep themselves safe and under the radar. "You don't need to rent a dacha in Siberia - my last big winner rented a modest house under an assumed name just a few dozen miles away from where he lived for one month," Blenner told ABC News. "Putting distance between the lottery winner and familiar surroundings is best." One of the best ways to maintain anonymity is to establish a trust or limited liability company (LLC) to claim the prize, allowing the winner to conceal their real name.
Another lottery lawyer, Kurt Panouses, said it was imperative that the winner seeks professional help to manage the massive cash influx, including a wealth manager, a tax attorney, and a certified public accountant. "You're talking about the most important financial decision that they and their family are ever going to make," Panouses told ABC. It's worth noting that the largest Mega Millions jackpot was recorded at $1.537 billion in October 2018, when an anonymous participant in South Carolina claimed the prize. That said, the last time a Mega Millions jackpot broke the billion-dollar threshold was on January 22, 2021, when the winning ticket sold in Michigan netted $1.050 billion.