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From trash to cash

There's an old saying that lotteries are taxes on stupid people, or people who can't do math. It's an aphorism I've tended to agree with. The odds are literally astronomical -- at one in 146,107,962, that's roughtly 1.5 times the distance from the earth to the sun in miles.

So, the people who play the various state-run games tend not to be the brightest. There's an example of this in Massachusetts right now, where a guy bought a bunch of scratch tickets, then scratched them in the store (a pet peeve of mine -- will you just get the hell out of the way of other customers, like me?). He split them into a winning pile and a losing pile (three guesses which was taller), tossing the losers when he was done.

And also accidentally tossing a $1,000,000 winner in the trash.

Another potential Ph.D. candidate now enters the picture. This guy, apparently as a hobby, goes around and fishes discarded scratch tickets out of trash cans, looking for missed winning tickets. And this time he literally struck it rich. He grabbed it and high-tailed it out of the store.

So, what's the first guy's response?

He's suing to get the money.

Both guys have put forth their stories, and both have huge problems. The second guy says he found it in a trash can outside the store, but there are apparently security videos showing the recovery being made inside the store. And the first guy says he accidentally put the ticket in the "loser" pile, but I know if I'd hit a million bucks, I'd have quietly left the store with it tucked into my wallet and called a lawyer -- not casually put it on a pile of tickets worth five and ten bucks each.

To me, it's a simple case of "possession is 9/10ths of the law" and "finders keepers, losers weepers." The first guy had it, and threw it away willingly. The second guy put the effort into going into a publicly-accessible trash can and fishing it out, so he earned it. Nobody made the first guy commit flagrant stupidity, and anyone else could have done what the second guy did and scored a jackpot.

But this is Massachusetts, after all. And it's my prediction that the state will assess a 50% tax on the total jackpot, split it between the men, then take the full tax bill from both of them, taking back all the money.


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Comments (6)

Oh - there will be a little... (Below threshold)

Oh - there will be a little left over - but the lawyers are going to get that...

I guess this verifies the a... (Below threshold)

I guess this verifies the adage --

"One man's trash is another man's treasure"

In this case it is painfully true.

My prediction is that the s... (Below threshold)

My prediction is that the state will disallow the winning ticket entirely and put the $1 million into the General Court's unallocated expense fund.

I hear the big dig needs a ... (Below threshold)

I hear the big dig needs a few more bucks...

The Massachusetts Court wil... (Below threshold)

The Massachusetts Court will find that both men
were victims and the state must pay each of them
$1 million.

Hmmm.Actually it b... (Below threshold)


Actually it belongs to the owner of the store.

The first person tossed it into a garbage receptacle owned by the store. Thus he has divested himself of possession.

The second person went into the garbage to pick items out of it without authorization (I assume). If he did have authorization, then the ticket belongs to the second person.

If he didn't have authorization, then it belongs to the store owner. It's not public garbage unless and until it is put out onto the street. Since the garbage can was inside the store it isn't actually considered to be public garbage.

If I were advising the store owner, I'd suggest suing for possession of the ticket and charging the second guy with grand theft.






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