A $14.3 million jackpot has been abandoned in Iowa after security checks put before the claimant were not answered to the satisfaction of lottery organizers.
According to reports, a person did come forward with the winning ticket to claim the massive jackpot, however, he later abandoned his claim after being unable to answer some simple security questions from the organizers, such as who bought the ticket and where it was purchased.
Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation is now looking into the case to determine who might have purchased the ticket to ensure that person was not blackmailed or even killed.
The winning ticket, which should have been used to collect the $14.3 million on offer, was originally purchased at a Des Moines, Iowa gas station in December 2010. However, the jackpot was not claimed until nearly a year later, just hours before the deadline was about the expire, according to ABC News.
A 77 year old man called Crawford Shaw of Bedford, NY, came forward with the ticket saying that he was representing a trust that owned the ticket. Shaw reportedly sent the winning ticket via FedEx to a law firm in Des Moines so that the attorney could collect the winnings on his behalf.
However, the lottery organizers questioned Shaw's ownership of the ticket, and a short while later Shaw abandoned the claim altogether.
The mysterious series of events has sparked huge interest, and a probe has been launched with many being suspicious that something more sinister might have happened to the rightful owner of the ticket.
Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer has said, "The possibilities of what could have occurred here really are endless. It could have been as serious as someone being killed, or someone being blackmailed. It's all within the realm of possibility. The whole situation is just strange."
The Iowa Lottery organizers have said it initially halted payment of the winnings because Shaw and his attorney could not identify who bought the ticket, nor where it was purchased. That sparked suspicion among the organizers.
Neubauer told ABC News, "Our security ran all the checks. There was no question that it was actually the winning ticket, but they couldn't answer some very simple security questions."
"In most instances, the people who come in to claim the prize answer the questions off the top of their heads in just a few minutes, so this was unusual the whole way through," she said.
Things were even more suspicious when Shaw said that the winnings would be transferred to a corporation in Belize, which is well known as a tax haven.
Jessica Lown, communications manager at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has said to ABC News: "The ticket could have been stolen or somebody might have been blackmailed. The important thing is that we want to sure there is nobody in physical jeopardy or that there is no financial crime going on."