Powerball Lottery Winner

Manuel Franco of West Allis, winner of second-highest Powerball lottery in history, attends a news conference at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue in Madison on Tuesday. At left is Peter Barca, state secretary of revenue, and at right is Cindy Polzin, state lottery director. Franco claimed the cash option payout of the prize, totaling approximately $477 million before taxes.

MADISON — Two Republicans legislators, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, have proposed a bill that would allow Wisconsin Lottery winners to remain anonymous.

A news release announcing the bill was released about the same time a press conference was held for 24-year-old Manuel Franco of West Allis, who had just claimed a $768-million Powerball jackpot, the third-largest lottery win in U.S. history and the biggest ever in Wisconsin.

Franco said at his news conference that he felt a sense of paranoia after he realized he won. He says he thought somebody was behind him every day and he kept the winning ticket in a safe.

Franco said he was sorting through $10 worth of quick-pick tickets after the March 27 drawing and thought he had checked all his tickets. Then he saw one last ticket stuck to another one, and recounted to reporters the feeling as he matched the first two numbers, then glanced at the Powerball to see it matched too.

“I was going insane,” Franco said. “I looked back at the three other numbers, they all matched. My heart started racing, my blood started pumping, I felt warm. I started screaming.”

Anonymity proposal

The legislative proposal, if adopted and enacted into law, would make Wisconsin the ninth state where lottery winners’ identities are protected, following the lead of Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas.

The lottery is banned in eight states, none of which are in the Midwest.

Under the proposal, lottery winners could have their names published if they so choose, but the Department of Revenue, which runs the Wisconsin Lottery, must get permission from the winner first.

State Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel, who introduced the bill with Vos, said that being able to conceal your identity as a lottery winner protects citizens from being targets of crimes.

“Winning the lottery often makes you a target of fraud, abuse and harassment,” Tauchen said in a statement. “Winners often take steps of wearing costumes and other efforts to conceal their identity and protect their privacy.”

Vox published a story in October 2018 recapping several deaths of lottery winners that appeared to be connected to their “lucky” wins. There was the Florida man who appeared to have been killed 10 years ago by someone who befriended him after he won a jackpot, as well as a Georgian who was killed in an apparent home invasion in January 2016.

Lottery officials frequently cite transparency and public trust in their games as reasons for publicly identifying winners.

Drawings can be rigged; former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director Eddie Tipton admitted in 2017 to manipulating software so he could predict winning numbers on certain days of the year. Tipton, his brother and a friend fixed jackpots that paid $2.61 million to them and their associates in four states.

Patty Mayers, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, said the lottery has always operated on the basis that more transparency is better. She noted there’s no requirement that winners hold news conferences as Franco did.

The winner

Franco declined to reveal much about himself at a news conference conducted by Wisconsin Lottery officials, smiling often but deflecting questions such as what he did for a living and what kind of car he drives. Franco did say he quit work the second day after winning, saying he just couldn’t continue.

The $768 million prize converts to an annuity option paid out over 29 years. The winner also can choose a $477 million lump-sum cash option, which was the route Franco picked. The state will keep $36.4 million in taxes and the federal government will keep $114.6 million in taxes, which will leave Franco with $326 million.

Franco said his financial goal before winning the jackpot was getting his bank account to the $1,000 mark. He said he hoped to make some charitable contributions and was prepared for people who might come asking for money.

“I’m ready and I know how to say no,” Franco said. “I’m just going to take off somewhere and, honestly, just take my time with it, think it over, talk to my family and make sure I spend it in the right way.”

The odds of matching all six balls in the Powerball drawing were 1 in 292.2 million. The winning numbers were 16, 20, 37, 44 and 62, and the Powerball was 12.

“Winning the lottery often makes you a target of fraud, abuse and harassment. Winners often take steps of wearing costumes and other efforts to conceal their identity and protect their privacy.” State Rep. Gary Tauchen, R-Bonduel

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Before the JT hired him, Adam went to St. Cat's before going to Drake University. He covers homelessness and Caledonia, helps lead social media efforts, believes in the Oxford comma, and loves digital subscribers: journaltimes.com/subscribenow

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