Mystery man almost loses $3 million lottery win

Watch this thrilling documentary!

Mystery man almost loses $3 million lottery win
A man stops by Lakeville Liquors and Market to purchase a bag of barbeque chips and four Quick Pick lottery tickets – two for the Mass Cash game and two for the Mega Millions game. Photograph credit to NBC10 Boston.

Imagine you're feeling lucky, so you go into your local store and buy a couple of your favorite lottery tickets. You put them safely in your desk drawer and then forget all about them. What you don't know is that you are holding a multi-million dollar jackpot-winning ticket.

When you find out you're a winner, it's not because you checked your tickets; it's because someone recognizes you on a surveillance video, and you are suddenly part of an investigation conducted by the Massachusetts State Lottery and state police.

A story so good they made a documentary

The above scenario is a true story, and it's also the basis for the documentary produced by NBC10 Boston Investigators entitled “The $3 Million Mistake.” This story takes viewers through the journey of a winning lottery ticket and the strange series of events that led to a criminal conviction, and the eventual finding of the real winner.

In an interview, Dan O'Neil, the director of compliance and security of the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, said:

It's a phenomenal story. It's the most unique case I've ever worked on.

An ordinary afternoon in Lakeville

The story starts on January 17, 2023, when an unidentified man stopped by Lakeville Liquors and Market located at 330 Bedford Street in Lakeville. He purchased a bag of barbeque chips and four Quick Pick lottery tickets – two for the Mass Cash game and two for the Mega Millions game.

The player added the multiplier to his Mega Millions tickets. Carly Nunes, the cashier at the store that afternoon, put the order into the lottery terminal and printed the two Mega Millions tickets. Then she returned to the cash register, where she rang up the customer's order – the lottery tickets and a bag of potato chips – the total came to $12. When she returned to the counter, Nunes told investigators the customer had left without picking up his lottery tickets. They had been left in the vending kiosk tray.

Almost an hour later, Nunes checked out another customer who purchased five lottery tickets. This customer realized she had picked up two extra tickets and handed them to Nunes. Nunes took the tickets and kept them.


On the night of the lottery drawing, January 17, 2023, the man who had purchased the forgotten tickets had a quick look around for them but assumed he'd lost them somewhere. Later that evening, the Mega Millions winning numbers were announced. They were 2, 12, 18, 24, 39, and Mega Ball number 18. The Megaplier was 3X. The jackpot prize was $3 million. The mystery man who had purchased the lottery tickets from Lakeville Liquors and Market had no idea that he was a winner.

A decision is made

After two days of holding onto the winning ticket, Carly Nunes made a decision. Her boyfriend, Joseph Reddem, drove the two of them to the Massachusetts State Lottery Headquarters to claim the jackpot prize. However, there was a hitch in their illegal plan; the ticket was torn and also seemed to have been burned.

When lottery officials told Nunes and her boyfriend how much the ticket was worth, they embraced and cheered. But not long after, lottery officials heard the pair arguing about the amount of money Redeem was going to get from the win. Nunes was heard saying that she would “only pay him $200,000.”

The overheard argument and the poor condition of the ticket raised some red flags for Massachusetts Lottery officials who decided to interview Nunes and Redeem to check out their stories.

The interview

When the investigators interviewed Carly Nunes, she first told them that she had bought the winning tickets after finishing her shift on January 17. She explained the condition of the ticket by saying that she accidentally tore it as she removed it from her wallet. She also told investigators that the ticket had burn marks because she mistakenly placed it on a hot pipe.

After listening to Nunes' story, lottery officials told her that they were opening an investigation and that she would receive the jackpot prize once the investigation was over. The officials then contacted the Massachusetts State Police to proceed with the investigation.

Holes in the story

At the beginning of the investigation, the police reviewed camera footage from Lakeville Liquors and Market. The footage showed that Carly Nunes did not purchase the winning ticket and that it had been purchased by an unknown man. In later interviews, Nunes changed her story and claimed that she had "inadvertently obtained" the winning ticket.

Justice is served

Carly Nunes was arrested in Brockton on June 27 after she failed to appear for her original arraignment on June 12. Nunes, 24, and her boyfriend, 32-year-old Joseph Reddem appeared in Brockton Superior Court one week later. Nunes was charged with larceny from a building, presentation of a false claim, and witness intimidation.

Alexander Zane, the Plymouth County prosecutor in the Nunes case, said that although he could acknowledge the temptation that Nunes faced, the Commonwealth recommended a prison sentence of one to two years to send a clear message about the importance of upholding the integrity of the Massachusetts Lottery System.

Zane said:

I truly don't know if anybody put in the situation that this young woman was in at least wouldn't have thought of doing what she tried to do. The instinct to have potentially $3 million in her hands was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Nunes admitted to the court that there was enough evidence to find her guilty of one of those felony indictments. She was charged with the presentation of a false claim, and the other two charges were dropped. Judge William Sullivan imposed a sentence of two years of probation with drug screening and drug counseling.

At the hearing, Sullivan said:

Some people are faced with choices they have to make. And you either have to make the right one or the wrong one. And this was the wrong one.

A life-changing experience

Some weeks after the court hearing, Nunes' attorney, David Nagle, spoke to the press about how his client had turned around her life since the sentencing:

She's been sober since the day she was arrested. And the transformation in her demeanor, in her appearance, and her attitude in thinking clearly is remarkable. Quite frankly, had she walked out of the lottery commission with the $3 million in her pocket, she might not be on this Earth today.

The unknown man

As soon as they realized the truth, the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission said they intended to honor the unknown man's claim to the $3 million jackpot. Determined to find the man who had purchased the tickets, investigators searched for more than a month. They eventually tracked him down on February 13, 2023, after posting flyers with a picture taken from the store's surveillance videos and questioning other store patrons about his identity.

The true jackpot winner was Paul Little, a diesel engine mechanic from Lakeville who had stopped by a convenience store, just by chance, to purchase a bag of chips and a couple of lottery tickets. He had a lot on his mind that day. A month earlier, his girlfriend had been involved in a car accident that had shattered her heel. She was going through some very intensive rehabilitation. As well as maintaining his own home, Paul was staying with his girlfriend to change her dressings and cook her meals. So, with his mind racing two hours ahead of himself, it was understandable that Paul forgot to pick up his lottery tickets. Throughout the protracted police and Lottery Commission investigation, Paul had no idea he was an integral component of the mystery. It wasn't until June 2023 that he finally received his check.

In an interview with NBC10 Boston, Paul said that he held no hard feelings towards Nunes and that she was young enough to learn from her mistake and choose a better direction for her life.

When Paul finally received his Mega Millions $3 million ceremonial jackpot check from the lottery headquarters in Dorchester, he said:

A lot of things had to happen for me to be standing here today.

Paul said that he planned to keep working for the time being. His plans for his winnings included paying off his mortgage and making home improvements. He also said he wanted to make a donation to his church fund to purchase a new heating system.

A lesson for everyone

State lotteries go a long way to maintain legitimacy and establish trust with players. This not only means that lottery operators are responsible for getting the necessary licenses and adhering to state lottery regulations and compliance, but they must ensure that lottery fraud is prevented. Similarly, lottery retailers are responsible for doing all they can to prevent their staff members from committing fraud. In the case of Carly Nunes, lottery retailer and owner of Lakeville Liquors and Market, Bhumik Patel – known to regulars as Mike – went out of his way to assist the police and the lottery commission in their investigation. He had been the owner since 2018 and was dedicated to providing quality service. In an interview with NBC10, he said:

We are a hard-working family… we are here to grow, to settle down, we are always going to do the right thing.

The main message from the $3 million lottery mistake event was summed up succinctly in a statement from Mark William Bracken, the executive director of the Massachusetts State Lottery, who said:

The integrity of our games is critical to the lottery's mission of supporting cities and towns. This case is an example of the steps we will take to ensure that prizes are being claimed by the proper ticket owners. We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement in maintaining public trust in the lottery by holding accountable those attempting to fraudulently claim prizes.

Enjoy playing Mega Millions, and please remember to play responsibly.


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