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Spanish lottery ‘winner’ ordered to pay back €320,000

Number beginning with 13 proves unlucky for woman who found ticket and cashed it in

A woman from the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia who found a winning Christmas lottery ticket and cashed it in has been ordered to return her €320,580 winnings. The decision was reached by a court after handwriting tests proved the ticket, from 2014, had been purchased by a woman living in the same area who had written the name ‘Inés’ on the back of the ticket with the intention of giving it to a friend with that name.

Winners of the 2017 lottery celebrate in Madrid.
Winners of the 2017 lottery celebrate in Madrid.ULY MARTÍN / ATLAS

The accused told the court she had bought the ticket, numbered 13,437 in a lottery kiosk because she liked numbers that started or ended with 13. “I bought it eight or 10 days before the lottery was drawn because it starts with 13 and I always look for that number,” she told the judge. “I had already bought two other tickets, one which ended with the same numbers, but I saw this number on the counter and I bought it too.”

Unconvinced by her version of events, the judge ruled that while there was not enough evidence to prove she had stolen the ticket, she was guilty of misappropriation of goods and was fined, as well as ordered to pay legal costs.

The accused had tried to rub out the name of the owner on the back of the ticket

The legitimate owner of the ticket had bought seven consecutive numbers in El Lor lottery kiosk in the Praza de Santo Domingo mall in Lugo, some 60 miles southeast of the regional capital of A Coruña. She intended to share them out among family and friends, which is why she had scribbled a name on the back of each ticket in pencil.

Despite the accused’s attempts to rub the name on the back out, experts managed to reconstruct the writing and concluded that it was the same as the writing on the other six tickets.

According to article 616 of the Spanish Civil Code, anybody who finds and hands in to the authorities an item worth less than €12 is due a 10th of the value, and a 20th if it is worth more than that.

For example, if you find a lottery ticket that goes on to win €100,000, the owner should give you €5,000. In the case above: €320,000, the finder would have been due €16,000.

I bought the ticket because it starts with 13 and I always look for that number

The accused

Objects, including lottery tickets, that are handed in to the authorities and are not claimed within two years are handed over to the finder.

Lottery tickets have been the cause of many a lost friendship and even lawsuits. In the case above, the name scribbled on the back was enough to prove the owner’s identity. But in general, winnings go to whoever can produce the ticket.

For this reason, it is always a good idea to write your ID number on the ticket or sign it. This is particularly useful if the ticket is being shared among several people. Financial consultant Remo Domingo says in such cases, photocopies or photos of the ticket are valid.

Another good idea for shared tickets is to set up a group on popular online messaging app WhatsApp. The ticket photo should show all the data of all the owners clearly. Written messages between the group should also confirm who has the ticket in their possession. These messages should be saved on another mobile device or in an email.

If you lose your ticket or it is stolen before the lottery draw, it should be reported to the local police or court. The report should contain all the details of the loss or theft along with proof of ownership – photos of the ticket or photocopies that clearly identify it.

The loss or theft should also be reported to the lottery authorities, the Asesoría Jurídica de Loterías y Apuestas del Estado. Any payment can then be paralyzed until a judge decides who the legitimate owner is.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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