For a few hours Thursday afternoon, it looked like the California winner of the record $1.6 billion Powerball was an employee of Jewish businessman and philanthropist Shlomo Rechnitz, and that her ticket was one of nearly 18,000 that Rechnitz gifted to all his employees and all the residents of his dozens of nursing homes.
And then, Thursday evening, that all changed when the New York Daily News, and the Los Angeles Times reported that this woman, who is reportedly a registered nurse at the Park Avenue Healthcare & Wellness Center in Pomona, did not win. The Daily News reported that the entire thing was a prank orchestraded by her son. The Los Angeles Times reported that the nurse’s daughter, who also works at the nursing home, said the reports “were the result of a misunderstanding” based on a photo of a lottery ticket. She asked the Times not to print her name, explaining that the situation is “too embarrassing.”
On Thursday, word began to spread that the California lottery winner was the recipient of a Rechnitz ticket. Rechnitz spokesman Joshua Nass sent an email and gave interviews saying as much, but added that there was not yet any confirmation from California lottery officials. It is confirmed, though, that a winning ticket was purchased at a 7-Eleven in Chino Hills, which is a few miles from Pomona.
Nass said that on Wednesday evening when the employee was led to believe she was the lottery winner, she and her fellow employees broke out into celebration, which was witnessed by manager David Levy. Throughout Thursday, without confirmation from California lottery officials, the Journal made clear that this apparent lottery win was unconfirmed.
“We relayed a series of events that indisputably transpired at the nursing home yesterday evening, which we have on surveillance footage,” Nass said when asked why this woman was publicized as the winner before receiving confirmation from lottery officials.
Nass said that if this does indeed turn out to be a hoax, Rechnitz has offered to pay for a 10-day trip for his employee to go to a resort of her choice anywhere in the world.
“To the extent that its evan a possiblity that this was a hoax or a prank that was preperated on her, it’s despicable, it’s abhorrent,” Nass said.