Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 30, 2012

Lucky liquor store sells another lottery winner

Mountain View's Liquor & Tobacco sold million-dollar ticket in January, possibly to same ticket holder

For the second time in three months, the same liquor store in Mountain View last week sold a lottery ticket worth more than a quarter million dollars.

Although no one matched all six numbers in last Friday night's MEGA Millions draw, one player who purchased a ticket at Liquor & Tobacco at 1040 N. Rengstorff Ave. won $259,269 by matching five numbers, according to state lottery officials.

The winner may — or may not — be Mountain View resident Emily Leach. The ownership of the ticket is being disputed, with Leach claiming she accidentally handed the ticket to a man behind her in line at the store when she gave him some money.

On Jan. 6, Leach won $1 million in the state lottery after she purchased 40 tickets from Liquor & Tobacco, which is located in the same shopping center as Costco.

Leach's million-dollar ticket was part of the $250 Million Cash Spectacular sweepstakes. The odds of winning were one in 1.2 million.

Leach said at the time she would use her windfall to pay off medical bills. Two years earlier she had woken up from a tumor-induced coma, and she still was battling a tumor in January.

As of Wednesday, whoever has the disputed winning ticket hadn't come forward to claim the prize. The California Lottery Commission is conducting an investigation into Leach's allegation and is reviewing security footage from the store, lottery spokesman Alex Traverso said.

"Ultimately, (investigators) will not be the ones who decide who the ticket belongs to. It might be sorted out through a legal process," Traverso said. If that's the case, lottery officials will withhold the prize money until a court decides who owns the ticket, he said.

Traverso said he can't think of any other incidents similar to the remarkable circumstances in Mountain View.

"You don't really see someone who has that level of luck, someone who wins $1 million and then wins a quarter of a million dollars," he said.

— Bay City News and Embarcadero Media staff

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