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Florida mother among thousands who had lottery winnings withheld by the state

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

Brittany Wilson cried tears of joy for winning the Florida lottery, but when she went to collect her $5,000 prize, the lottery district office told her she wouldn't be walking away with much-needed cash.

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

“I was thinking about all the bills I've put up with, just paying them,” Wilson said.

Florida mother among thousands who had lottery winnings withheld by the state
(ABC Action News screenshot)

But on January 3, 2024, when he went to claim his prize, Wilson was handed a “special circumstances ticket” informing him he could owe “state debt”.

“This can't be right,” said the young mother, who reportedly won $1,000 on a scratch card last year with no problem collecting the payout.

“The ticket stated that the Florida Lottery was to contact the Department of Economic Opportunity (now called the Department of Commerce) to 'determine whether any debt is owed' regarding unemployment compensation that Wilson had received in the past,” ABC Action News reported.

“Wilson claims he never received a letter, email or call from the state saying he owed them money. He told ABC he called the Florida Unemployment Assistance Program “almost every day” and reported “waiting two hours, three at the most, just to talk to someone” and fix the mess,” the outlet added.

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

Obviously, she is not the only one who has faced this problem.

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

“Something has to be done,” Wilson said. “This cannot continue to happen, with the times now, where [the price of] everything goes up: rent goes up, food goes up. Let me have that money.”

The names of more than 530 people were sent to the state by ABC investigative reporter Kylie McGivern last year in an effort to secure their earnings and shed light on the issue. Many didn't know there was overpaid unemployment until they tried to cash in their lottery prizes.

Two weeks after the news station intervened, Wilson was able to clear the alleged debt from the system and was finally able to collect his lottery winnings.

“Something that was so exciting turned into an absolute nightmare,” one winner told ABC Action News.

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