An unemployed Bronx man found himself rolling in dough after winning $5 million on a lottery scratch-off last month. Now he’s fighting to keep his winnings and his identity a secret, for fear that people will steal or scam him out of his newfound fortune.
The man, a former employee at Little Caesar’s pizza, purchased the lucky ticket at a liquor store on April 24, the New York Post reported. He said he’d completely forgotten about the ticket until it fell from his pocket while he was in the restroom. Little by little, he scratched it off to ultimately reveal the $5,000,000 grand prize.
“I scratched from front to back. Five — it had a comma, so I’m like, it’s probably $5,000,” the 24-year-old told the newspaper. “Then it had another comma. My mind blew. I put the ticket down and I just started jumping all over the house. I’m like, ‘I just won $5 million!'”
The celebration was short-lived, however, after the young man realized he couldn’t collect his winnings until he agreed to pose for cheesy photos with an oversized check at a May 24 press conference announcing him as the lottery winner, according to the New York Post. It’s apparently something all New York lottery winners who win over $1 million must agree to before they can claim their cash.
“In claiming the prize, winners must sign a claim agreeing to attend the press conference,” said Brad Maione, spokesman for the state Gaming Commission, which also runs the New York Lottery. “We don’t have any provisions for anonymity.”
The stipulation hasn’t sat well with the Bronx man, who said he plans to fight back by demanding the Gaming Commission allow him to remain anonymous. If they don’t, he’ll sue.
It was just in March that a New Hampshire court’s ruling allowed a $560 million Powerball winner’s identity to remain under wraps. Given the outcome of that case, the Bronx man’s attorney said he plans to file court papers ahead of next week’s event in hopes of keeping his client’s likeness anonymous.
“I’m sure he’ll be forever hounded,” said the man’s attorney, Andrew Plasse. “It’s a really bad idea to identify people. They might not get harmed right away, but one, two years down the road, they might get robbed.”
The young man expressed the same fears, telling the New York Post, “Where I grew up, everybody knows me. All these people would know and I’m afraid they might come for me.”
““Everybody who knows me knows I’m too nice. And I don’t want to be taken advantage of,” he added.
If and when he gets his hands on his winnings, the father of one said he plans to set aside some money for his 4-year-old daughter and invest in his dreams of opening his own auto mechanic shop. The man said he also hopes to buy a house for his mom, who worked two jobs during his childhood just to make ends meet, and another for himself and his 28-year-old brother.
“I just couldn’t believe it. It still doesn’t register,” he said of winning the lottery. “Maybe it will when I have the money.”