“A lucky New Yorker has a $24 million Lotto payday just waiting — but the winner has to act fast as time is running out,” Gweneth Dean, director of the New York Gaming Commission’s Division of the Lottery, said in May.
The winning ticket for the May 25, 2016, New York Lotto drawing was about to expire, and the gaming commission was making a final push to locate the lucky, unknown winner.
“We urge New York Lottery players: Check your pockets. Check your glove box. Look under the couch cushions. If you have this winning ticket, we look forward to meeting you.”
Smith, 68, heard about the search for the mystery New York Lottery winner on the evening news, and remembered he might have bought some tickets last year.
A retired security officer and grandfather of 12, he fished out a stack of old, unchecked tickets from the pocket of an old, favorite shirt. As he went through them, he found one with the numbers: 5, 12, 13, 22, 25, 35.
“I stood there for a minute thinking, ‘Do I see what I think I see?’” Smith told the gaming commission. “I had to stick my head out the window and breathe in some fresh air. I was in serious doubt. I really had to convince myself this was real.”
The New York Gaming Commission announced Smith’s identity on Wednesday.
On May 25 this year, the day that his winning ticket was to expire, Smith showed up at the Lower Manhattan customer service center of the gaming commission to claim his prize, barely a mile from the Renu Corp Grocery & Tobacco store where he had bought the ticket a year earlier.
“It was literally a last-minute thing,” a spokesman for the gaming commission told The Washington Post.
Smith left the office after taking care of some paperwork to certify that he was the rightful owner of the ticket. But when the commission tried to get in touch with him again, Smith was nowhere to be found.
“We could not find him. It was a long time before we heard from him again,” the commission spokesman said.