When faced with the question of what they would do when faced with finding a winning lottery ticket in the trash, but knowing who the rightful owner is, most people would have to think long and hard about whether they would relinquish such a life-changing amount.
This was the dilemma recently faced by the owners of a Massachusetts convenience store who discovered a $1-million-winning scratch ticket that a customer had mistakenly discarded. Fortunately for the lucky shopper, the spirit of human goodness won out.
The winning ticket holder is Lea Rose Fiega, a regular at the Lucky Stop convenience store in Southwick, Massachusetts.
Fiega had played the $30 Diamond Millions lottery, but only partially scratched her ticket, before throwing it away at the store, believing she had not won anything.
After languishing in a paper waste bin behind the stores counter for a full 10 days, the ticket was discovered by the shop owners’ son, Abdi Shah, who soon realised the crucial choice he held in his hands.
In an interview with local broadcaster WWLP-TV, Shah recalled the sequence of events and his ensuing crisis of conscience. He smilingly related how he was a “millionaire for a day” and that his immediate thoughts had been that he could finally get himself a Tesla.
“One evening I was going through the tickets from the trash and found out that she didn’t scratch the number, I scratched the number and it was $1 million underneath the ticket. I had $1 million in my hand. And on the other hand, I wanted to do something good,” he said.
Shah looked to his parents for guidance, and they advised him to place his trust in his own judgment.
“He didn’t sleep for two nights,” Abdi’s father, Maunish Shah, told WWLP-TV.
“He called (his) grandparents in India and asked what to do, but his grandparents said ‘Give it back. We don’t want that money.'”
Fiega’s regular visits to the establishment worked in her favor as The Shahs were able to recall that she had been the one who bought the ticket and promptly dispatched Abdi to see her at work.
“He came to my office and said, ‘my Mom and Dad would like to see you,’” Fiega recalled. “I said, ‘I’m working,’ and he said, ‘No, you have to come over.’ So I went over there and that’s when they told me. I was in total disbelief. I cried, I hugged them,” Fiega said.
Smiling, Shah remembered the emotionally charged moment,
“As soon as she came in I handed her a $1-million ticket,” Shah said, “She freaked out and cried like a baby.”
While The Shahs will pocket a $10,000 bonus for selling the winning lottery ticket, it is far less than the $1 million they could have claimed for themselves, and this act of integrity is not lost on Fiega.
The winner advised that most of her winnings would be bundled away for her retirement, but she revealed that she had given the Shahs an additional reward in recognition of their exemplary honesty.
“I mean, who does that?” she said. “They’re great people. I am beyond blessed!”
While Abdi Shah may not get his Tesla just yet, he and his family have earned the admiration of the local community with messages of encouragement and media interview requests pouring in.