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can an illegal immigrant win the lottery

Can Non-US Residents Play to Win the Lottery?

Are you eligible to win the lottery if you don’t live in the US?

Have you ever wondered who’s eligible to play the lottery in the United States?

Here are some common questions about buying lottery tickets:

  • Can you buy tickets if you aren’t a US resident, but want to win one of those huge lottery jackpots?
  • Can you buy US lottery tickets if you’re a citizen or a resident of a foreign country?
  • Can you cross state lines to buy lottery tickets?
  • What if you don’t have legal permission to be in the United States? Will you be able to claim the prize money if you win?

Here’s everything you need to know about who can and can’t play the lottery in the United States.

Who Can Play Mega Millions, Powerball, and Other US Lotteries?

You can buy US lottery tickets, win the Powerball and the Mega Millions lotteries, and collect your jackpot no matter what your US residence status is.

While there is an age restriction (you have to be at least 18 to play), adults can buy tickets in any state which offers the lottery even if you’re not a United States citizen, if you don’t live in the state selling the ticket, or even if you don’t live in the country at all.

Of course, since non-US residents are eligible to buy the tickets, they’re also eligible to claim the prize money should they win.

However, be aware that where you live will affect what happens when you win. For example, different states have different rules about whether lottery winners can remain anonymous.

Countries outside of the United States have different laws about how lottery prizes are taxed and how much money must be withheld from your winnings. If you do win, be sure to consult with a tax professional for more information.

If you’re trying to enter a lottery other than the Powerball or Mega-Millions games, check the rules before you enter for eligibility information.

Can you Buy US Lottery Tickets from Outside of the United States?

While non-US residents can enter and win the lottery, there’s a caveat: You have to actually be in the country to legally buy US lottery tickets. It’s illegal to buy lottery tickets over the internet or by mail — with some rare exceptions, such as a lottery app run by a company that sends an employee to physically buy tickets for its customers.

This’s important to keep in mind because many lottery scams trick people into believing that they’ve won lotteries from foreign countries. You can only win a foreign lottery if you bought a ticket while you were in that country. If you didn’t, you can throw those scam win notices away.

There are also scam websites that will take your money and promise to buy lottery tickets for you. Approach these sites with caution and be sure to check the company out carefully before handing over any money. Doing an internet search for the company’s name together with the word “scam” is a good first step.

Can an Undocumented Alien Win a US Lottery?

Because there are no residency restrictions about who can enter US lotteries, illegal immigrants can buy tickets and can claim their winnings. However, claiming the lottery winnings might make an illegal immigrant feel vulnerable to deportation.

For example, in 2011 Jose Antonio Cua-Toc won a $750,000 lottery and was afraid to claim it because he didn’t have a legal residency status. When he asked his boss to claim it for him, the boss took the money for himself.

However, winning the lottery might smooth the road to a green card. If you’re an undocumented immigrant and you have a winning lottery ticket, you should consult a legal professional before claiming your prize.

Can Felons Win Lottery Jackpots in the United States?

Rules vary from state to state, but in most cases, felons can legally buy lottery tickets and win jackpots.

In December of 2014, a story broke about Timothy Poole, a sex offender who won over $2 million in the Florida Super Millions scratch-off lottery.

Poole was convicted in 1999 of sexually battering a nine-year-old boy who was a friend of his family. Poole pleaded innocent but took a plea bargain, which included over a year in jail and registration as a sex offender.

The Florida lottery doesn’t have any restrictions regarding the criminal background of the entrants, which means that Poole received a lump sum of $2,219,807.90.

Many people were horrified to think that a sex offender could receive such an enormous prize. On the article linked above, Toni Tommas commented that it “Almost makes me question the existence of God.”  

While some people think it’s wrong that murderers and sex offenders can win millions from the state, others find it would be unfair to prevent someone from playing the lottery after they’ve paid for their crime and served their time.

There is a bright side to a felon winning a lottery jackpot, however; It might give the victims a way to be compensated for damages or restitution in a civil trial. It’s hard for a felon to claim he or she can’t pay when they have publicly won a lottery jackpot.

Who is eligible to buy US lottery tickets? Can a non-US resident claim a Powerball or MegaMillions lottery? What about illegal immigrants?

Man Wins $3 Million Lottery but Is Tricked Out of Prize

On Feb. 3, a man walked into N&K Quick Pick in the Rockland County village of Spring Valley and purchased a $10 scratch-off instant lottery ticket. It was a $3 million winner, but it turned out to be anything but instant.

When the man, who speaks limited English, told a store clerk that he had stumbled upon a fortune, the clerk, according to the authorities, hatched a plan with the store’s owner and a third man. They told the man, an illegal immigrant working as a painter, that he would be deported if he tried to claim the winnings.

“When he presented the ticket, they scared the hell out of him,” said Thomas P. Zugibe, the Rockland County district attorney.

The three persuaded him that they would arrange for him to get some of the money if he gave the ticket to the clerk, Atif Ali according to Mr. Zugibe, who said Mr. Ali collected the first $150,000 annual payout and sold the rights to the rest for $600,000.

After waiting several months without receiving a dime, the ticket buyer hired a lawyer, Thomas Sassone.

“They basically defrauded him,” Mr. Sassone said. He asked the New York Lottery to investigate, the district attorney was called, and over the last two weeks, Mr. Ali, of Spring Valley, N.Y.; the store owner, Riaz Khan of Monroe, N.Y.; and Mubeen Ashraf, also of Monroe, were charged with first-degree grand larceny.

The three men could not be reached for comment on Friday, and Mr. Khan sold the store in July. The arrests were reported Friday by The Journal News of White Plains.

To collect a jackpot, a winner must sign the back of the ticket to prevent others from claiming the prize, said Carolyn Hapeman, a spokeswoman for the New York Lottery. But the rightful winner of the $3 million ticket, whose name was not released, had already signed it. So Mr. Ali, according to Mr. Sassone, had the man sign a document attesting that they bought the ticket together.

Though Ms. Hapeman said lottery officials were skeptical, they authorized the first of 20 annual $150,000 payments. She noted that lottery officials do not ask for the immigration status of winners.

Mr. Ali, the authorities said, then sold the rights for the rest of the jackpot to a company called Advance Funding for $600,000.

An office manager at Advance Funding, who declined to give her name because she was not authorized to speak for the company, said it made the payment after the New York Lottery sent documents that said Mr. Ali had purchased the ticket.

Most of the money was deposited in a bank account that the authorities have now frozen. The real buyer will most likely receive that money, but it is still unclear, Mr. Zugibe said, how much of the rest of the $3 million jackpot he will get, since Advance Funding may claim it still has the rights to it.

“We’re not looking to hurt anybody,” said Mr. Sassone, the winner’s lawyer. “He just wants to get his money back and to get left alone.”

Three men are charged with telling a scratch-off lottery ticket buyer that he would be deported if he claimed the New York prize, but that they would help him collect.