Lottery Officials Investigate Claim of Lost $500,000 Ticket


lottery-ticketLottery officials said they’d look into the case of a missing $500,000 scratch-off ticket but offered no promises to the 69-year-old retiree who said he lost it. Louis Tolentino was too shaken up to talk at length about the ticket Monday but mustered the strength to file a claim with state officials. “They’re gonna see what they can do,” he said.

Tolentino bought the Gold Rush ticket at Gold Coast Liquors on Lake Worth Road in South Florida, across the street from the Wycliffe Country Club community where he lives with his wife, Sandra.

Such cases are not uncommon, said Laurie Wright, spokeswoman for the Florida Lottery. She had no hard numbers but said they are resolved on a case-by-case basis. Tolentino’s case is being looked at, she said.

“They have begun an investigation, but there’s nothing conclusive at this time,” said Wright. Every year, there are millions in unclaimed lottery tickets.

From 2007 through 2008, more than $83 million in lottery winnings went unclaimed, more than $43 million of that in scratch-off winnings, Wright said.

Tolentino doesn’t have much hope that someone will return the ticket. He said he filed a report with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and called the Florida Lottery.

When Tolentino scratched off the ticket Wednesday, he wasn’t sure he had won.

“I thought I had maybe won $50,” he said. “But there was another zero, and then another and another.” Still unsure, Tolentino headed to the liquor store to find out exactly how big his prize was.

“The machine printed out a confirmation ticket, which confirmed he had won the $500,000,” said Larry Hillard, a clerk at the store who was not there when Tolentino came in with his ticket.

Tolentino said he wrapped the ticket in some papers and put it in his back pocket to head off to a lottery office, but got lost. He stopped at a West Palm Beach gas station for directions.

“There was someone in line behind me that got very close to me,” he said Sunday.

When the one-time New York City garbage truck driver who lives on Social Security got back home, the ticket was missing from his back pocket.

Tolentino said it was a mistake not to write his name and address on the back of the ticket. Lottery officials agree. “That’s the surest way that you can make a claim for that ticket,” Wright said.

{South Florida Sun-Sentinel/Noam Newscenter}