LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — We’ve all seen pictures of California Lottery winners holding their oversize checks worth millions of dollars.
But imagine what it feels like to be paid nearly $2 million, even if you didn’t purchase a winning ticket.READ MORE: Protests Continue Outside Sigma Nu House On USC's Fraternity Row As New Sexual Assault Allegations Emerge
That’s exactly what happened to a Beverly Hills man. And now, lottery officials are saying he never should have received a prize.
It’s a story that you’ll only see on CBS2.
Surveillance video shows the man, whose identity will remain anonymous, purchasing a Powerball ticket in January 2015 at a 76 gas station in West Los Angeles.
According to lottery officials, the manager of the gas station told the man he had purchased the winning $1.9 million ticket, which he unfortunately misplaced.
In previous years, the lottery required players to be in possession of the winning ticket in order to claim a prize.
However, during a hearing in June, the lottery commission changed the rules to allow for ticketless winners to provide “substantial proof” in order to obtain their check.
The change in policy allowed the man to file a claim for the prize, along with a no-ticket declaration, saying he lost the ticket at home.
Paula Labrie, then acting director of the lottery, authorized payment in the amount of $1,995,933 to the man based on what she called substantial proof, according to an email obtained by CBS2’s David Goldstein.
Lottery documents, however, show there were discrepancies in the investigation.
The store’s surveillance video system was approximately 47 minutes ahead of the California state lottery time, and the winning ticket was purchased at 4:35 p.m., Goldstein reported.READ MORE: Lawmaker Calls For Change On California Film Sets After Prop-Gun Shooting Death Of Halyna Hutchins By Alec Baldwin
Thirty-three seconds earlier, another ticket was bought at the store.
Only one ticket was the winner.
“The time was way off, so there was a lot of math that had to be done so we really could not count on that picture,” chief lottery investigator Helen Brean said. “Since [the tickets were bought] in such a close proximity, it’s difficult to discern who the actual purchaser of the ticket is.”
Audio recordings revealed the Beverly Hills man claimed to have played three Powerball tickets that day, paying a total of $6.
But lottery documents showed that whoever bought the winning ticket wagered $20.
Helen Brean concluded the big winner really didn’t win but was paid anyway.
She filed an internal complaint and was fired.
Steve Tacchini, deputy director of the lottery who was in charge of security, filed a complaint with the California Attorney General’s Office and was subsequently told his services were no longer needed.
Pictures of the winner were taken holding the Powerball check but were never publicized.
The lottery admits it never shared his good fortune as it normally does but did not disclose the reasoning for not doing so.
Brean filed a lawsuit against the lottery for retaliation, and it was settled.MORE NEWS: Inland Empire Commuters Dealing With Wet And Dangerous Road Conditions
The lottery says it based its decision to award the $1.9 million on the surveillance photo and is confident it awarded the prize to the right person.