Man sues Powerball, DC Lottery after $340 million prize denied over website mistake

Winning number displayed on DC Lottery website was not the number from Powerball drawing

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Washington, D.C., man is suing Powerball and the D.C. Lottery for refusing to pay a $340 million prize last year after, the lawsuit claims, his numbers came up on the D.C. Lottery’s website. 

John Cheeks bought a Powerball ticket on Jan. 6, 2023, using a personal number combination of family birthdates and other things.

“I’m not a regular, except for when the jackpot goes up,” he said.

Cheeks did not see the Jan. 7 drawing, but he pulled the website up on his laptop on Jan. 8 and saw his numbers.

“I got a little excited, but I didn’t shout, I didn’t scream,” Cheeks said. “I just politely called a friend. I took a picture as he recommended, and that was it. I went to sleep.”

But the numbers posted on the D.C. Lottery website were not the same as those pulled in that Powerball drawing on Jan. 7.

His lawsuit claims his numbers remained on the D.C. Lottery website for three days and the size of the Powerball prize at that time was $340 million. 

Cheeks attributes his somewhat low-key response to seeing his numbers on the website to being deeply immersed in his work at the time. He’s trying to create a home trust bank that would make loans to people who don’t qualify for traditional mortgages.

“The crisis of the homeownership situation here in the District, Virginia and Maryland,” he said. “Tent cities over at the State Department. Tent cities at Union Station.”

“I know it’s unheard of and I’ve been criticized for saying that, but the F word, for ‘foreclosure,’ would not stand on our contracts with people,” he explained.

In his lawsuit, Cheeks says when he tried to redeem the ticket at a licensed retailer, the prize was denied. At the D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming prize center, Cheeks says he got another denial. He says he also got a request from a claims staffer.

“’Hey, this ticket is no good. Just throw it in the trash can,’” Cheeks said. “And I gave him a stern look. I said, ‘In the trash can?’ ‘Oh yeah, just throw it away. You’re not gonna get paid. There’s a trash can right there.’”

Cheeks says he put the ticket in a safe deposit box, instead, and contacted a lawyer.

The lawsuit filed by attorney Richard Evans claims Cheeks was eventually told that a lottery contractor, D.C.-based Taoti Enterprises, accidentally posted the wrong numbers — that it was a “mistake.” 

“They have said that one of their contractors made a mistake,” Evans said. “I haven’t seen the evidence to support that yet.”

“Even if a mistake was made, the question becomes: What do you do about that?” he said. “There is a precedent for this, a similar case that happened in Iowa, where a mistake was admitted to by a contractor and they paid the winnings out.”

NBC Washington contacted, by email Powerball, the Multi-State Lottery Association, Taoti Enterprises and various D.C. government entities named in the lawsuit along with their attorneys of record. They said their policy is not to comment on ongoing lawsuits.

NBC Washington followed up the email to the attorney for Taoti Enterprises with a phone call and was told a response would be coming.

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