Local News

Lottery Dream Shattered for Rocky Mount Couple

Posted May 25, 2007
Updated May 26, 2007

— Randolph and Sandra Whitehead planned to get out of their small house, buy a car they could depend on and pay their bills. After all, they had just won $250,000 in the state lottery.

But those dreams came crashing down when their road to riches took a sudden U-turn.

On May 1, Randolph Whitehead bought a scratch-off ticket at the Rocky Mount BP station on Centura Highway. They had the surprise of their lives.

“Me and her looked at it together,” Randolph said. “I put on my glasses. She said, ‘That’s it, Randolph!’”

The matching numbers of the Lucky Times 7 ticket showed they won $250,000.

“And I held it and I held it and I held it and I held it,” Sandra said. “I held the card so tight, I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head.”

Afraid to rely on their old car, they took a cab to Raleigh. While at the Lottery Commission on May 2, the ticket was put through a computerized validation process. Nobody told the couple about the validation, Randolph said.

The husband-wife duo had their pictures made with the larger-than-life check. Before the third photo, they got the jolting news: The numbers didn't match.

"I said, 'Why did you take the ticket out of the room? Why didn't you let me know," Randolph said. "When you go to one of these stores, they validate the ticket right in your face."

According to Jerry Carter, director of security for the Lottery Commission, it was "an unfortunate misinterpretation and misunderstanding on the part of the player."

"A validation process takes several minutes," he said.

That's done after the winners fill out all their claims. But the computer scanner detected a discrepancy and did a secondary screening.

"We were able to determine that there was a microscopic piece of latex still on the lucky number area, and our prize analyst scraped that area and we were able to determine that the number 48 is in fact a 46," Carter said.

Cases like this are very rare, he said.

The commission sent the couple a letter: Verifying winning numbers "does not rely on eyesight," it said. The Whiteheads say the commission should have validated the tickets first, before all the photos and festivities.

“It was just snatched,” Sandra said.

The lottery commission did agree to pay for the couple's $200 taxi fare.

The Whiteheads have tried to contact the Attorney General to help them in this case.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • spazman May 27, 2007

    AGAIN..if and i say if somebody is on the public dole and wins this kind of money....do they have to pay it back????

  • spazman May 27, 2007

    If somebody wins in NC do they have to pay the STATE back IF and i said IF they had collected any public money in the past

  • superman May 27, 2007

    I never played the lottery so I dont know-- Dont they have to scrape of the ticket to see the number under that black ink? Maybe they didnt scrape it off good. The lottery would have certainly benefited if they had won. Thousands of people be playing hoping they win too! The person or persons validating the ticket had nothing personal to gain-- one way or the other. An honest mistake-- but perhaps next time they will validate the ticket before they rush ahead with the pics. The people had their 15 minutes of fame just a shame that they didnt win. Dont think that they should have gotten the money just because the validating process came at the end.

  • FE May 27, 2007

    MORE to the WRAL editors: I had asked the identical question that vitameatavegamin asked, including also why the several reader posts related to that same issue were deleted. My follow-up questions never got posted, but apparently vit.. had somewhat better luck.

    I have no problem with WRAL removing comments that are in poor taste, "inappropriate," or whatever. But that is entirely different from WRAL first making a news story available, and then at some later point rewriting it to (apparently) make it a little more politically palatable.

    If the story contained a FACTUAL error, you should have stated so via a correction notice and not just changed the story to fit your biased viewpoint and/or political spin.

    I think commenting on "so they play the lottery" as originally stated in your news story is within the guidelines you state. The apparent censorship issue by WRAL bothers me more.

    Gotta go..doubt it anyone will ever see this post..but at least SOMEONE knows my feelings!


  • coastalfun May 27, 2007

    The validation process should take place BEFORE anything else. Seems like the Commission made a BIG error in that respect and should honor the $250,000 payoff. How embarrassing for the Whiteheads AND the state of NC!!

  • Worland May 27, 2007

    If you consider the lottery as a tax on the poor, the same logic would apply that fast food joints make people fat. You have a choice to play the lottery or not; just like you have a choice whether to eat a greasy hamburger or not. Whatever happened to personal responsibility for your own actions?

    I think of the NC lottery as more of an idiot's "donation" to the gov't. Compared to other state lotteries, your chances of winning with a scratch off ticket in NC are very slim. It seems everything run by the NC gov't is corrupt in one way or the other, and the lottery is a prime example of greed run amok. It seems the lottery money will just be used to fill cuts in the school system's budget instead of adding to it.

  • Jack Bauer May 27, 2007

    Vitametatavegamin: Remember now,, WRAL is not a Fox newstation. You musn't expect fair and accurate.

  • SomeRandomGuy May 26, 2007

    I DO NOT see in this story where this ticket was validated at a Rocky Mount store; Where are you seeing that?!

  • vitameatavegamin May 26, 2007

    to the editors: Why was the earlier edition of the story revised? What was wrong with the 'winners' comments about 'we're on disability [not working] so we play the lottery'...it was said, and reported...why can reporting not be honest (and complete)...why edit what was said? It did effect how the story was received...was the purpose of the story to inform (tell the whole truth; remind people to be attentive to details when making claims) or was the purpose to make the lottery people look like mean ogres who 'stole' the money from the poor people? Please try to report without opinion influencing the tone of the story...straightforward reporting can do nothing more than earn you more respect. Biased reporting just reinforces the current media image.

  • vitameatavegamin May 26, 2007

    "A RESPONSIBLE government should not allow single parents or low-income families the choice between purchasing a gallon of milk or a lottery ticket. It is a disgrace."
    What? this is nothing short of communism! It is NOT the job of the government to protect people from their own stupidity...It is not the government's job to decide how any of us choose to spend our money, whether it is EARNED or given out on the 'disability dole'...once the check is in the hands of the citizen, it is not up to the government to determine how it is spent. Stupid people will always be with us...if they want to pay the lotto-tax, may as well let them...I'M not paying it.