(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) — A California woman who won $1 million in the lottery in January claims she hit another $260,000 last week but it was stolen. Lottery officials say though the case is still open it appears she gave her latest winning ticket away.
Emily Leach, who picked up the million-dollar check at the start of the year, bought a pile of Scratcher tickets last Friday at the same store, Liquor & Tobacco, in Mountain View. One of those tickets was worth $260,000. Leach claims she paid for the ticket but a man who was in the store that day stole the ticket.
Leach claims she was trying to help a man who was begging her for money. She has told lottery officials that she handed the man a $100 bill but somehow she unintentionally handed him the winning ticket she had bought. The man has not been identified by authorities.
“I did nothing but help this man. I was trying to give him what he was asking for,” Leach told ABC News.
Now she claims he stole her ticket, and she wants it back.
Russ Lopez, spokesman for the California Lottery, told ABC News they investigate disputes with tickets, and their security and law enforcement division is looking into this case.
“At this point we would not make a judgment as to who owns the ticket. The ticket has not been claimed yet. Once the ticket has been claimed then we can say a little bit more,” Lopez said.
However, he has seen part of the surveillance footage from the store and says it appears to show Leach giving away the tickets she bought to patrons in the store. They are trying to determine all the information before making a formal decision on who actually owns the ticket, he added.
“The video shows this woman buying a lot of tickets and then giving them away,” he told ABC News. “The video doesn’t lie.”
Leach became something of a local celebrity after she won the million. Since then, Leach has committed random acts of kindness around the community, so purchasing tickets and beer for the customers in the store last Friday was not unusual. But winning the lotto again certainly is.
“Two times in three months!?” Leach told ABC News. “It’s an amazing story.”
Lopez says that the chances any one person could have won the $1 million lottery last January were 1 in 1.2 million, and the chances of winning on the scratch-off last Friday were even steeper — 1 in 3.9 million.
Leach said she had to move after she won last January because people were harassing her for money. She says she used the winnings to pay off medical bills, and adds that she is still in poor health.
“I paid off all my medical bills, helped my family and helped people in the community. I was supposed to be dead three years ago,” Leach said.
Lopez says the lottery is compiling all sides of the argument before they make a decision.
“The facts are the facts, and we will make a call then,” he said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul R. La Monica, CNN
Parija Kavilanz, CNN
Patrick Ary, WAAY
Jackie Wattles, CNN