Powerball Mystery: N.H. winner of $560M jackpot fights to remain anonymous

Although the Merrimack woman who won $560 million in the Jan. 6 Powerball drawing gave up her privacy when she signed the winning ticket, her lawyer argues she should be granted anonyminity, because her “interest in remaining anonymous far outweighs the public’s interest” in the disclosure of her identity.

The woman, referred to in court documents as “Jane Doe,” made “a huge mistake” by signing the ticket before seeking legal counsel, Manchester-based Attorney Steven Gordon states in his motion asking the court to grant his client an expedited hearing on the matter.

The hearing is currently set for Feb. 21 in Hillsborough County Superior Court South, but Gordon’s motion asks it be moved up to Feb. 13, because “time is of the essence.”

Gordon indicates in his motion that Assistant Attorney General John Conforti, who is representing the New Hampshire Lottery Commission in the matter, has no objection to moving the hearing to Feb. 13.

A Superior Court judge is expected to rule on the motion in the next few days.

The woman has one year from the draw date to claim the money, according to the Lottery Commission.

Much of Merrimack was set abuzz with speculation after residents, especially those in the town’s Reeds Ferry section, learned that the sole winner of the Jan. 6 jackpot had purchased their ticket at Sam Safa’s Reeds Ferry Market at 601 Daniel Webster Highway.

Safa, whose store received $75,000 for selling the winning ticket, said at the time that he hoped the winner was one of his regular customers.

Although court documents don’t state whether “Jane Doe” lives in Merrimack, Gordon, in his motion, describes her as a “longtime resident of New Hampshire” who is “an engaged community member … who wishes to continue” her community involvement without the glare of the spotlight.

The night of the Powerball drawing, according to Gordon, the woman, “like millions of others, expectantly read the numbers on her ticket, with much hope and little expectation.

“She read and reread and reread them again; there was a match. The immediate emotions were raw and conflicting – awe, disbelief and an unexpected one – panic, about how to protect a piece of paper … ,” Gordon wrote.

She read the instructions on the back of the ticket, and went to the Lottery Commission Website, he wrote. He said she followed the instructions to sign the ticket and list her address, not knowing that the information would become public once she presented the ticket to the Lottery Commission to claim her winnings.

Neither did she realize that had she signed the ticket under the name of her trust, her privacy would have been

maintained, Gordon added.

Three days after the Powerball drawing, Attorney William Shaheen, Gordon’s law partner at Manchester firm Shaheen & Gordon, urged the winner to remain anonymous.

Writing in his online blog, Shaheen suggested the winner choose anonyminity “if you like your life and you like your friends.

“If you don’t, things will change. People will look at you differently and treat you differently,” he wrote.

In a similar situation in 2016, Shaheen created a trust called Robin Egg 2016 Nominee Trust for the Raymond residents who won a $487 million lottery prize.

Gordon, meanwhile, lists in his motion several instances in which lottery winners were subjected to “violence, threats, scams, harassment and endless solicitations” after their names became public.

His client “is now part of a small demographic that’s historically been victimized by the unscrupulos,” Gordon wrote.

In an especially bizarre case in Florida in 2009, according to Gordon, a woman who reportedly approached a lottery winner posing as a financial advisor “swindled him out of his winnings before killing him and burying him in her backyard.”

If a media outlet, or anyone else seeking to make her identity public, files a Right-to-Know request under RSA 91-A, Gordon said releasing the information would amount to “an invasion of (the woman’s) privacy.”

In this case, he wrote, the public’s right to know “is far outweighed by (his client’s) interest in remaining anonymous.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.