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Lottery winner's identity kept secret over safety concerns

PORTLAND, Ore. -- An Oregon Lottery winner took more than three months to claim his $6.4 million Megabucks jackpot.

But the lucky man had good reason for being late - he lives in Iraq.

The man cashed in Dec. 1 at lottery headquarters in Salem, said Chuck Baumann, the Oregon Lottery spokesman. He elected to take his millions in 25 annual installments of $256,000 minus taxes.

Though the Lottery generally prohibits winners from remaining anonymous, officials have honored the man's request to keep his identity secret. Baumann said it's because the winner is concerned about his safety back home.

"He made it very clear that the amount of money he had won here would certainly put him and his family in harm's way," Baumann said.

The winner bought the ticket for the Aug. 24 drawing through an online lottery agent based overseas.

Baumann said it's his educated guess that the agent has people deployed across the world to go into retailers and buy lottery tickets. He said its employee for Oregon games must be in Bend, the city where the winning ticket was purchased.

The winning numbers were: 15, 27, 32, 39, 44 and 45. Baumann said he asked the man how he chose them. The man's English, though not bad, wasn't great, and he didn't provide a clear-cut answer.

"He covered his eyes with his arm, and then poked at numbers in the air," Baumann recalled.

Though the man bought his ticket via the Internet, he had the actual ticket when he arrived in Oregon's capital city.

Why wouldn't the person who bought the ticket in Bend quit his job and cash the ticket, rather than hand it off to the Iraqi man?

"That thought has certainly occurred to a lot of people here," Baumann said. "But obviously (the website) has some checks and balances."

The man, whose win was first reported by Willamette Week, is believed to the first person from outside the U.S. to win the Oregon Megabucks jackpot. Baumann said the Lottery has no restrictions on foreigners winning prizes or buying tickets through an online agent.

"There are federal laws that apply to Internet gambling that don't apply to the Oregon Lottery," he said. "We have no rules about that because we don't sell online - the Lottery itself."

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