Who is the $1 billion Powerball jackpot winner? Here's what the verification process is like

Last week, one very lucky person became a new billionaire after hitting the $1 billion Powerball jackpot. 

The winner purchased the single-winning ticket at Las Palmitas Mini Market in downtown Los Angeles. 

The morning following the huge announcement, news crews including FOX 11 descended upon the store where the ticket was sold to speak with the market's owner, Navor Herrera, who received a $1 million bonus check for selling the ticket.  Some even hoped to maybe get a glimpse of the lucky winner. 

So everyone got quite the shock when a woman came forward claiming to be the lottery winner - and it was all caught on camera. 

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, was seen in tears and screaming for joy. In disbelief at the news, the woman rushes out of the store and gets into her car before driving away from the market. 

Now the question remains - was that woman the true winner or an impostor?

FOX 11 reached out to the California Lottery to see if they could comment on the incident and explain the verification process all winners must go through before receiving any prize money. 

It turns out, the process isn't as quick and simple as you might think. 


"The California Lottery will NOT know who the winner is until someone completes and turns in a claim form, which also requires producing the winning ticket," said Carolyn Becker, deputy director of Public Affairs and Communications for the California Lottery. 

The claim form can be filled out at any of 9 California Lottery customer service counters across the state. It can also be mailed. 

Then, once that claim form is received at the lottery's headquarters in Sacramento, the claimant (which is what the lottery calls the person claiming to be the winner) is contacted by California Lottery law enforcement officers to be interviewed. 

That's right - California Lottery has its own law enforcement team that handles the security aspects of the claims process. According to Becker, winners of large jackpots like this are asked specific questions that only the true winner would be able to corroborate. General information like where the ticket was bought is public knowledge, but maybe the date of when the winning ticket was purchased is not.

It's all designed to protect the "legitimacy of the progress and the integrity of the win." 


Around 10,000 claims a month are received by headquarters, according to Becker. 

Officials said they do not confirm when a claim has been received because the claim still needs to be verified for legitimacy. 

"Our claims for large prices all go through a thorough vetting process," Becker said. 

It's a process that can take "weeks or months depending on the circumstances." 

All parts of the paperwork must be complete and accurate to move forward.

Once that step is complete, then the winner will be announced to the public. 

That person has a year from the date of the draw to come forward and file a claim before the ticket expires. 

The winner can choose to receive the money over 30 annual payments or a lump sum.


Officials further reiterated that they do not publicly confirm or acknowledge when someone comes forward to claim they won the jackpot because "with jackpots this high, there's a chance we may get false claims." 

In California, it is a felony to file a false claim with the lottery. 

Remember Edwin Castro? He's the lucky person who won the $2 billion Powerball jackpot last year. The jackpot was the largest ever for Powerball and the largest in U.S. lottery history. 

That drawing took place Nov. 7. Castro was not publicly identified by lottery officials until February 13.