The Arkansas woman who was awarded a $1 million prize by a judge in a dispute over a winning lottery ticket has no sympathy for the woman who originally claimed the money — and now says she is unable to pay it all back.
“I don’t feel bad for her,’’ Sharon Duncan told TODAY’s Ann Curry Friday. “It’s my money. I deserve the money, not her.’’
Ticket in the trash
In July, Sharon Jones claimed the $1 million prize after saying she found the winning ticket in a bin for discarded tickets in a convenience store in Beebe, Ark. Jones has said she regularly took tickets out of the bin to redeem them for secondary prizes, usually toys for her grandchildren, and she and her husband discovered one of the tickets was a winner. She figured her good fortune was simply a case of finders keepers, a treasure fished out of the trash.
However, the convenience store owner and manager and the original ticket owner, Sharon Duncan, sued Jones. They claimed that Duncan deserved the winnings because, when she originally scanned the ticket on the machine, it told her it was a losing ticket so she unknowingly discarded the prize-winner.
Last week, a judge ruled that Duncan was the rightful owner of the ticket and deserves the prize money, which he ordered Jones to pay back. But Jones and her husband claim they have already spent about $190,000 of the $680,000 they were awarded after taxes and are unable to pay back the money because neither of them is currently employed. Jones and her attorney are appealing the ruling.Story: She may have to return $680K from trashed lottery ticket
Duncan’s attorney, Steve Underwood, initially proposed sharing the winnings between the two parties, but told NBC News that a settlement could not be reached.
‘Sorry, not a winner’
There is surveillance video from the store obtained by Duncan’s lawyer showing her scanning the ticket. “If that would’ve said, ‘Winner,’ well I would’ve kept my ticket, but it said, ‘Sorry not a winner,’’’ Duncan said of the machine through which she scanned the disputed ticket. “On the ticket bin, (Jones) shouldn’t have been in there no ways because it said ‘Do not take.’’’
For her part, Jones claims that the discarded tickets were in a garbage can that she regularly fished old tickets from without any convenience store employees interfering. Store manager Lisa Petriches, one of the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the bin was not a trash can but a ticket bin that gave Petriches the rights to any discarded tickets. But Jones and her attorney claim that there was no sign above the can indicating that patrons could not take old tickets from the 13-gallon bin until after the lawsuit was filed.
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The Arkansas Lottery Commission has stated that its machine was not malfunctioning in any way on the day Duncan said it told her the $1 million ticket was a loser. Duncan claims she scanned the ticket two or three times as she normally does with any ticket.Ill. couple claim share of giant Mega Millions pot
“I trust the machine, so I discarded the ticket,’’ she said.
Duncan was in shock when Petriches told her that Jones had claimed the $1 million prize from a ticket Duncan had thrown away.
“I had a heart attack right then when she told me,’’ Duncan said. “I got upset about that.’’Video: Buyer who tossed $1M lotto ticket: 'It's my money' (on this page)
“It was her ticket, and I thought she deserved her money,’’ Petriches said.
Duncan does not plan on sharing any of the winnings with Petriches despite the fact that Petriches alerted her to what had happened.
“It’s my money,’’ Duncan said. “I think I deserve it.’’
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