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how to not look after your ticket to riches

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While the identity of the man who won a $48.8 million lottery prize in Alvin remains unknown to the public, a report released Tuesday by the Texas Lottery Commission shows the steps the agency took to verify the ticket's authenticity after it was damaged in a mishap with a laser jet printer.

The mystery man purchased his Texas Lottery ticket Oct. 18 from a self-service machine at the H-E-B Pantry grocery store in Alvin, where he was shopping with his wife and two children, the report shows. But after he became the sole winner of the jackpot on Oct. 21, he traveled a long road as he waited to see whether the commission would really pay up.

That's because his good fortune soured when he placed his winning ticket in a laser printer to type an endorsement on the back, the report shows. The heat generated by the printer turned the data on the front of the ticket black.

Forensics used

On Dec. 17, the ticket holder, acting through a group called MAED Trust, presented the damaged ticket — along with a second, non-winning lottery ticket purchased at the same time and place — to the commission to claim his money. The Lottery Operations Division's Security Department did forensic exams and verification efforts on the ticket, while the agency's Enforcement Division investigated the facts surrounding its purchase and damage.

Forensics analysis found some data still visible on the damaged ticket, including a partial retailer number, but some digits on the ticket were missing.

"Other than the damage to the front of the ticket making portions unreadable, visual inspection did not reveal any inconsistencies or evidence that should not have been present on a ticket for the prize claim," the commission's report states.

Enforcement investigators also took written sworn statements from the ticket purchaser; his attorney, Frank Putman of Houston; Putman's assistant; and a friend of the winner, who were all familiar with the circumstances of the case.

The purchaser and his friend were at the gym together the day after the lottery drawing when the ticket holder saw a TV report displaying the winning numbers. The numbers matched a ticket the man had, and he showed it to his friend, investigators learned. The ticket holder later contacted Putman, who called the commission.

The ticket holder also handed over photos of the winning ticket that he had taken before it was damaged, even though photos are not by themselves "acceptable evidence" to submit instead of an actual ticket as a claim for the lottery prize, the report shows. But the ticket data visible in the pictures were consistent with the ticket data reconstructed by forensic analysts.

Enforcement investigators also viewed H-E-B's security camera recordings showing the man buying the ticket at the time the transaction was recorded on the central computer system. They also examined a receipt showing the ticket holder's purchase of groceries at the store around the same time. Furthermore, the tear line between the damaged winning ticket and the non-damaged ticket he purchased matched, investigators found.

Security officials then performed a query for all transactions recorded on the self-service machine at the H-E-B on the date of purchase. They found only two of the 12 transactions made on the machine that day were for wagers, both being for Lotto Texas tickets. The serial number for the first transaction matched the non-winning ticket submitted by the purchaser, while the winning ticket was purchased eight seconds later, the report shows.

Investigators also found the serial numbers found on the back of the tickets indicated the roll stock paper used was assigned to an H-E-B store 9 miles away in nearby Santa Fe. Representatives for both H-E-B retailers confirmed the roll stock paper had been transferred from the Santa Fe store to the Alvin store when the latter location ran out of paper for its self-service lottery ticket machine.

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