Over 5,000 Florida Lottery Winners Flagged for Possible DEO Debt Within a Year

Orlando, Florida. – The Florida State Lottery recently said that more than 5,000 winners “showed (showed) a potential outstanding balance of state debt” in the past year.

A public records request submitted by WKMG-TV News 6 to the state lottery office shows that a total of 5,060 winners from January 1, 2022 to January 10, 2023 owed money.

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The new information supports the growing number of complaints from recent lottery winners who had their prizes taken away by the Department of Economic Opportunity to pay unemployment overpayments they knew nothing about.

Morgan Jones, DEO’s deputy director of communications, told News 6 that it’s important to note that “DEO’s Reemployment Assistance overpayment procedures exist to mitigate fraud. An overpayment is established when the DEO does not receive sufficient information to determine eligibility for a claim.

John Moore of Jacksonville told News 6 he was ready to drop the money when lottery staff took his $1,000 cash prize on behalf of the DEO.

“I almost gave up, I’m not going to lie,” Moore told News 6 this week. “How many people aren’t fighting who don’t know about you!”

Moore is one of dozens of Florida residents who have contacted News 6 to help claim lottery prize money taken to meet unemployment overpayments.

News 6 featured Moore and Jerry Kirkpatrick, of Ocala, in a story on December 6. Both men told News 6 that they had never received a debt notice from the state.

Since that story first aired, more than 40 lottery winners across the state have contacted News 6 for help after a cash prize was taken to pay off a DEO debt.

On Monday, Kirkpatrick joined the list of lottery winners who lost and later claimed their winning lottery prize.

The freelance handyman sent an email and photo of himself to WKMG-TV, holding up his $1,000 check courtesy of the DEO.

“It was a waiting game because I was wondering if it was really going to happen,” Kirkpatrick said. “You got results for me, it’s good to have you around.”

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The DEO has made it clear that potential state debts go beyond unemployment benefits and could include child support and tax bills.

Moore said she went to the Jacksonville lottery office to collect her winning Whole Lotta 500 instant ticket in November and was told she owed $1,200.

He contacted News 6 and provided proof that he was eligible for benefits. In fact, a record check for him produced an additional $275 in unemployment assistance.

“They directly deposited me $275 that they owed me because they forgot to send it,” Moore said.

According to Jones, the DEO’s fraud prevention measures have stopped more than $23.1 billion in fraud.

“To be clear, we realize that just because an account is marked as an overpayment does not mean that an overpayment has occurred,” he said.

Jones told News 6 that the DEO finds that most overpayments result from incomplete claims, which can be resolved by completing the required steps to verify eligibility.

The DEO said it is committed to helping eligible Floridians receive reemployment assistance.

Floridians can visit www.FloridaJobs.org/Overpaids for guidance on resolving their overpayment issue, including a Request for Federal Overpayment Waiver guide and a sample form.

If you have a financial or unemployment issue, please email [email protected] or text the words “Ends of the Month” along with your issue to 407-676-7428.

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