An Illinois woman lost out on a $50K lottery ticket after buying it with drug money.
DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois woman will lose out on the proceeds from a $50,000 lottery ticket after a state appeals court ruled the government should keep the money because the ticket was purchased with drug money.
The Fourth District Appeals Court ruling overturns a Macon County judge who previously awarded the winnings to Tykisha Lofton, the Herald and Review reported.
Police found the lottery ticket while raiding a Decatur home where Lofton lived with her boyfriend, Terrance Norwood. Norwood told authorities that he had already turned the ticket in to claim the prize, worth more than $35,000 when paid as a lump sum.
Lofton had been present during the raid that led to those charges but had told police she was “unaware” Norwood sold drugs. She also said she hadn’t noticed the assault rifle in the bedroom.
Under questioning, detectives claimed Norwood told them about the winning $3 scratch-off lottery ticket, which he had already turned in to claim the prize, worth $35,315 when paid as a lump sum. He said the ticket was his way out of having to sell drugs. He was sentenced in October 2015 for drug dealing, drug possession and armed violence offenses.
“Norwood stated he was selling drugs to pay the bills until he got that ‘little bit of money,’” according to court documents describing Norwood being interrogated at the time by Macon County sheriff’s deputy Brian Hickey.
Lofton was present during the raid but had told police she wasn’t aware Norwood sold drugs.
Police say Lofton didn’t dispute that Norwood had purchased the ticket, although she scratched it off. Court documents say Lofton later told authorities she had bought the ticket with money she received from babysitting.
Lofton said her purchase yielded a free ticket and that it was the prize winner. She produced a lottery winner claim form that included her name and details.
The Macon County judge had said he didn’t believe her story and ruled that the ticket was most likely bought with drug money. However, he ruled in Lofton’s favor, saying that extending Illinois forfeiture laws to grab the proceeds was going too far.
The appeals court judges overturned that ruling.
“Because of the direct link between the lottery winnings and the funds used to purchase the original ticket, the winnings can reasonably be considered ‘proceeds traceable’ to Norwood’s illegal drug sales,” they wrote.
Reacting to the appeals court decision, sheriff’s Lt. Jamie Belcher said seized cash like this is normally split among the sheriff’s office, Decatur police and the Illinois State Police.
“The money we (the sheriff’s office) seize from drug raids goes into a separate drug enforcement account,” Belcher said. “That is used to purchase equipment and anything the drug enforcement guys need.”
Belcher said it seemed only fair that a drug dealer or his loved ones shouldn’t profit, even indirectly, from the proceeds of drug sales. But fighting it out in court over a winning lottery ticket was certainly unusual.
“I’ve never heard of a case like it before,” he added.