Good Samaritan Could Get Unclaimed Lotto Jackpot In Spain
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The JPMorgan Chase office in London was not lucky with its trades. Somebody in Spain though, was very lucky with the lottery last year. And that somebody remains a mystery.
Lauren Frayer reports on the drama of a lost and found lottery ticket with a $6 million jackpot.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing in foreign language)
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: From the Christmas lottery in which orphan children sing the winning numbers, to El Gordo's summertime sister jackpot, Spain is a country obsessed with playing the lottery.
It's virtually unheard of here that someone would buy a lottery ticket and not tune in to hear if they won.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Spanish spoken)
FRAYER: But that's exactly what appears to have happened with one winner. And it's got this country wondering: who among us, in this dismal economy, is a millionaire but doesn't know it?
The story begins more than a year ago, when a winning lottery ticket was sold in La Coruna, in northwest Spain. A few weeks later, that same ticket turned up on the counter of another lottery kiosk in the same city.
The cashier, Manuel Reija, assumed it fell out of someone's wallet. He ran it through his machine that checks for winning numbers - and was stunned.
MANUEL REIJA: (Through Translator) I couldn't believe it the first time I checked the ticket. So I ran it through the machine again, just in case there was a computer error. I was standing up but I had to sit down. I almost broke the chair I was so flustered.
FRAYER: Spanish media have dubbed him a Good Samaritan. He turned the ticket in, rather than claiming the jackpot himself.
REIJA: (Through Translator) It would have burned a hole in my pocket. It wouldn't have been right. It just wouldn't have been right.
FRAYER: For a year, the lottery administration waited for someone to come forward. Now the city has launched a very public search. Carlos Negreira is La Coruna's mayor.
MAYOR CARLOS NEGREIRA: (Through Translator) We're searching for a millionaire - not to ask for money, but to give it away. So that's a little strange, especially these days with the bad economy.
FRAYER: Negreira says six people have already come forward to try to claim the ticket, but couldn't prove it - by providing details of where and when it was sold. The ticket owner is likely to be a regular lottery player who visited a lot of different kiosks. It could even be a foreign tourist who's long gone from Spain.
By law, if the real owner isn't found within two years, the $6.3 million jackpot will go to Manuel Reija, the cashier who found the unclaimed ticket, says the mayor.
NEGREIRA: (Through Translator) He found something that wasn't his, and did the right thing to try to find who it belongs to. He's a good example for our citizens who believe in justice.
FRAYER: For that, the mayor says, he'll buy the man a beer.
For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.