For one whole year, a 68-year-old man did not know he was $24.1 million richer. Jimmie Smith bought the winning lottery ticket in the New York Lotto and neglected to check the numbers until two days before the expiration date. The winning ticket was for May 25, 2016, drawing. The East Orange, New Jersey resident, did not check his ticket until May 23, 2017.

The New York Gaming Commission knew the winning ticket was out there someplace. The organization also knew that it had been sold at a bodega in the city, but it didn't know who bought the ticket with the winning numbers 05 - 12 - 13 - 22 - 25 - 35.

Gweneth Dean, director of the Commission's Division of the Lottery said the commission doesn't want people to lose their winnings. So months in advance of the deadline, many appeals were made for people to look around their house, in their cars, or through stacks of paper. What they didn't say was to check in the pocket of an old shirt.

Ticket found

After hearing all the announcements for people to check their tickets, Smith finally looked through a stack of tickets he had left in the pocket of a shirt that was hanging in his closet.

Among the unchecked lottery tickets was the winning $24.1 million ticket.

The retired security officer couldn't believe one of his tickets had all the correct numbers. He couldn't believe he was seeing the winning numbers, but after taking a second look, he was sure all the numbers really did match.

Smith said he kept putting off checking his tickets. It was a good thing that he did check the ticket in the nick of time because two days later, the ticket would have been invalid and the $24.1 million would have been gone forever.

End results

Since the ticket had been sold so long ago without someone coming forward, the New York Lottery had to complete a review before releasing Smith's name. He chose to receive his payments over 26 years instead of collecting the one-time payment.

Some thought that was odd considering his age. However, nothing about Smith's story is like that of the usual lottery winners. The father of two and the grandfather of 12 has learned his lesson, and something like this is unlikely to happen that way for him again.

The millionaire related that he has been buying lottery tickets in New Jersey and New York since the 1960s, but he never rushes to see if he had won.

Smith is not the only one who doesn't check their tickets immediately. Not only in New York but in other states, millions of dollars go unclaimed every year. That's not the way the lottery commissions want it to be. They prefer that the rightful owners will come forward and claim their winnings.

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