IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Investigators trying to unravel the mystery behind a bogus claim for a $14.3 million Iowa Lottery jackpot in 2011 have received valuable information from a man in Canada who has been granted immunity from prosecution, an official said Monday.
An agent traveled to Canada to conduct an interview a month ago after reaching an agreement in which a person of interest was guaranteed he wouldn't face prosecution for any crime related to the jackpot, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation assistant director Gerard Meyers said. Since then, investigators have been working to verify the information the person gave them and locate and interview others who may be involved, he said.
The case has baffled authorities from the beginning but the development has injected new life into the investigation, which is approaching two years old.
It started when lottery officials in December 2010 drew winning numbers for Hot Lotto, a game played in Iowa and several other states. Months passed and no one redeemed the winning ticket, which was purchased at a Des Moines gas station. As the one-year deadline for the prize drew near, Iowa Lottery officials started plotting ways to use the leftover money.
But with hours to go, attorneys representing 76-year-old New York lawyer Crawford Shaw came forward with the valid, winning ticket (which had just been delivered by FedEx to Iowa).
Shaw signed it on behalf of a newly created investment trust. He later said that he was representing an attorney for a person who purchased the ticket, and that he did not know the winner's name. He said the trust's proceeds would go to a corporation in Belize, a known tax haven.
Lottery officials refused to pay the jackpot until Shaw divulged names of everyone who had possessed the ticket, saying they wanted to know that it had been legally possessed. Shaw refused, eventually withdrawing the claim in January 2012. The winner or winners walked away from millions, and DCI launched an investigation led by agent Matt Anderson.