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Florida Lottery winner forced to forfeit prize after ticket gets lost in mail

What to do if you win the lottery
What to do if you win the lottery 06:05

A lottery winner from Florida suffered a bout of bad luck right after she won $1,000 – her winning ticket was lost in the mail. Sue Burgess of Hernando County learned in August that she had won a Second Chance Lottery drawing and had to mail her ticket to Florida Lottery headquarters, WLFA reports.

"I was so elated," Burgess told the station. "It was like winning a million dollars to me."

However, weeks later, Florida Lottery informed Burgess that they did not receive her ticket and that she needed to forfeit the money to an alternate winner.

The Florida Lottery's Second Chance game allows players to enter non-winning tickets for an opportunity to win prizes. Players register their tickets to participate. 

Burgess missed an email about her winnings but later received a call. She had just days to get her ticket postmarked and chose certified mail, WFLA reports.

She had to send her ticket in this way due to the coronavirus pandemic — lottery offices in the state closed in July, so winners must send their ticket through certified mail, according to WFLA.

Burgess' package did arrive at the Tallahassee post office on August 12, according to tracking information she provided to WFLA. However, it was never dropped off at the lottery headquarters. 

There is a short seven-day window to turn in a Second Chance Lottery ticket, WFLA reports. Burgess said the lottery told her: "No ticket, no prize."

"I was taken back," she told Behnken. "It took my breath away."

The Florida Lottery has information for mailing in tickets on its website. The guidance includes a note about the risk of mailing tickets: "U.S. Postal Service regulations include various restrictions on mailing Lottery tickets. The risk of mailing tickets remains with the player and will not be assumed by the Lottery."

A spokesperson for the Florida Lottery told WFLA in an email that the "Burgess' claim was never received by the Florida Lottery." The email also including tracking information which showed the package status as "in transit," WFLA reports.

The Florida Lottery and U.S. Postal Service did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment.

In a statement to WFLA, a postal service spokesman said the post office is investigating. The Postal Service sent a statement to WFLA saying it "strives to always provide the best possible service to our customers."

"We apologize to this specific customer for any inconvenience they may have experienced," the statement continues. "In this specific instance, we are continuing to work with the lottery office to confirm receipt of the mailpiece."

While the lottery states Burgess is too late to turn in her ticket — and another winner received her $1,000 — the Florida Lottery is willing to bend the rules, WFLA reports. 

If the package shows up postmarked prior to the original expiration date, she will get her prize, the lottery told WFLA.

Players claiming prizes of $5,000 or more can now do so in person, Florida Lottery says. There is appointment information with COVID-19 guidelines on the lottery website.

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