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Mystery Powerball winner claims prize amid anonymity battle

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The identity of the winner has yet to be released

The mystery winner of a $560m (£400m) lottery jackpot in New Hampshire has claimed her prize, US media report.

The woman filed a lawsuit against the state to remain anonymous, but lawyers were allowed to pick up a lump sum of $352m in Powerball winnings.

Lawyer William Shaheen is fighting to protect “Jane Doe’s” identity. New Hampshire is one of the states that forces winners to reveal their names.

“My client doesn’t want any accolades, she doesn’t want any credit,” he said.

After collecting her winnings on Wednesday, the mystery winner promised to donate $50m to charity, report US media.

She just wants to do good things,” said Mr Shaheen, according to USA Today.

Mr Shaheen also donated thousands of dollars to local charities, the paper reported.

The organisation Girls Inc was given $150,000 and checks of $33,000 each were dispersed to chapters of the End 68 Hours of Hunger in cities across New Hampshire.

Why stay anonymous?

According to “lottery lawyer” Jason Kurland, only six US states currently allow lottery winners to remain anonymous: Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, South Carolina and Ohio.

“When I first meet [clients] they’re all extremely overwhelmed and nervous. Everyone dreams of winning but doesn’t actually think they’re going to win,” he told the BBC.

Individuals go from living relatively normal lives to suddenly never needing to worry about money again, especially winners who take home as much as mystery winner “Jane Doe”.

New Hampshire is among the few other states that allow people to form a trust to claim prize money anonymously.

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In 2016, the state’s winner of a $487m US Powerball jackpot chose to remain anonymous, claiming the prize through a trust facilitated by a local law firm.

After winning the $560m Powerball in January, “Jane Doe” made a “huge mistake” by following instructions and signing her name on the ticket, as recommended online.

The law in New Hampshire requires that the winner’s name, town and amount won become part of public record.

Jane Doe wants “the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars”, according to court documents obtained by NewHampshire.com

“While we respect this player’s desire to remain anonymous, state statutes and lottery rules clearly dictate protocols,” said the New Hampshire Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre in a statement in February.

Although the euphoria of a jackpot spurs many winners to publicly celebrate, Mr Kurland warned that when a person suddenly has so much money “everything changes”.

“A lot of them try to keep their personality and not change too much but obviously their lives have changed,” he said.

Horror stories of lottery winners whose luck ran out litter the internet. The 1997 winner of $31m, Billie Bob Harrell Jr, committed suicide.

Before taking his own life he told his financial adviser that “winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me”.

‘I see both sides’

What often happens to winners is that family members suddenly want to start businesses or ask for help paying off loans. This can cause friendships and relationships to be torn apart, which can lead a person to crave anonymity.

Mr Kurland says he sees both sides of the privacy argument.

“The lottery is a business so they want to sell tickets, they want to put a face to the win,” he said.

“And the public wants to see that the person who wins maybe looks like them or comes from humble means. It adds a needed legitimacy to the game.”

Though it still remains to be seen whether or not the New Hampshire winner will have to come forward with her identity, her lawyer insists that in the meantime she intends to keep distributing money to charities.

“She knows there are so many charities that do good work and need money, but we want to start with these two”, Shaheen said. “She believes that if we raise good children we will have a good country.”

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