Speculation running wild as $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot remains unclaimed

Posted at 7:10 PM, Feb 25, 2019

What happened to one of the most valuable pieces of paper in history? Did it get thrown away? Did its holder die? Is the ticket in someone's coat pocket?

The Greenville News reported on Saturday that last October's $1.5 billion Mega Millions prize remains unclaimed, and the ticket's holder only has until April 17 to come forward to claim the prize.

The unclaimed ticket has stirred speculation in and around the South Carolina town of Simpsonville, where the winning ticket was sold.

While lottery experts say it is prudent not to immediately claim the prize, waiting this long could cost millions in interest.

Hans Blake, a South Carolina investing expert, told the Greenville News that had the winner claimed their prize in October and picked the $878 million lump sun, that person could have already made more than $5 million off interest.

Had that person invested in the stock market since October, that rate of return could have been up to 7 percent, or nearly $20 million, he told the paper.

If no winner comes forward by April 17, each participating state in the Mega Millions game will get back all the money that state contributed to the unclaimed jackpot, the lottery says on its website.

The amount of money that goes unclaimed in state lottery programs is quite staggering. Nearly $3 billion went unclaimed during a 12-month period from late 2016 through early 2017, lottery expert Brett Jacobson told CNN.

While most of the unclaimed lottery winnings are from smaller prizes, there have been a few notable examples of massive jackpots going unclaimed.

The largest known unclaimed lottery ticket was sold in Georgia in 2011 worth $77 million.

The missing ticket is the single most valuable lottery ticket in US history.

It is also not unprecedented for winners to wait to claim their prize. In 2016, three winning tickets were sold for a Powerball drawing worth nearly $1.6 billion. A couple, Marvin and Mae Acosta, from California waited six months before claiming their share of the winnings.

"It may have taken six months for them to come to one of our offices, but these winners did just what we tell all our winners to do — they read our Winner’s Handbook and then assembled a team of legal and financial advisors to help them make the most of this windfall and prepare them for their new life as Lottery winners," California Lottery Director Hugo Lopez said in a statement to NBC in 2016. "We couldn’t be happier for them and are thrilled they took the time to assemble the right team before coming in to claim."