‘Nightmare’: Florida mom among thousands who had lottery winnings withheld by the state

A lottery-winning mother in Florida is just one of thousands who have had their prizes denied because of a reported debt owed to the state.

Brittany Wilson cried with joy at winning the Florida lottery but when she went to collect her $5,000 prize, the Lottery District Office told her she would not be leaving with the much-needed cash.

“It was hard for me during that time,” the young mother told ABC Action News. “I was financially struggling … something just told me to go to the store and try out my winnings.”

“I was thinking about all the bills that I have held up, just paying those off,” Wilson said.

(Screenshot ABC Action News)

But on Jan. 3, 2024, when she went to claim her prize, Wilson was handed a ‘Special Circumstances ticket’ informing her that she could owe “state-owned debt.”

“This can’t be right,” said the young mother who reportedly won $1,000 from a scratch-off card last year without any issues collecting the payout.

“The ticket stated Florida Lottery had to contact the Department of Economic Opportunity (now called the Department of Commerce) to ‘establish if any indebtedness is owed’ regarding unemployment compensation Wilson had received in the past,” ABC Action News reported.

“Wilson claims she never received a letter, email or call from the state telling her she owed them money. She told ABC she called the Florida Unemployment Assistance Program ‘almost every day’ and reported ‘waiting two hours, at the max three, just to speak to someone’ and sort the mess out,” the outlet added.

“If you guys [the state] can find out if I’m working or if I’m not working to verify if I qualify for unemployment, you should be able to find some way to reach me. My email on that site is still the same,” Wilson said.

Evidently, she is not the only one to have faced this issue.

ABC Action News reported that “thousands” of Florida Lottery winners have faced a similar response and “had their winnings withheld by the state for overpaid unemployment compensation.”

“Something has to be done,” said Wilson. “This cannot keep happening — with the times now, where [the price of] everything’s going up: rent’s going up, food’s going up. Let me have this money.”

The names of more than 530 people were sent to the state by ABC investigative reporter Kylie McGivern in the past year in an effort to secure their winnings and clear up the issue. Many were unaware that there was overpaid unemployment until they tried to cash in their lottery prizes.

Two weeks after the news station intervened, Wilson was able to get the alleged debt wiped from the system and could finally collect her lottery winnings.

“Something that was so exciting became an absolute nightmare,” one of the winners told ABC Action News.

Frieda Powers

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