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Illinois cops seize $50k lottery winnings as proceeds of crime

TAGs: asset forfeiture, Illinois Lottery, Lottery

An Illinois Lottery jackpot winner is out $50k after a court ruled that police were correct in claiming the ticket was purchased with the proceeds of crime.

illinois-cops-seize-lottery-winnings-proceeds-crimeLast week, the Fourth District Appeals Court ruled that Illinois police were right to seize the payout from the $3 scratch ticket following their November 2014 raid on the apartment of Terrance Norwood, who was sentenced one year ago to 16 years in stripes for drug trafficking, drug possession and weapons offenses.

At the time of the raid, Norwood told police that he was getting out of the drug trade because he’d just won $50k via a scratch ticket. Paperwork to claim the winnings had already been filed with the Illinois Lottery.

Norwood’s longtime live-in girlfriend, Tykisha Lofton, was present at the time of the raid, yet denied knowing her boyfriend was dealing cocaine and marijuana. She also claimed not to have noticed the SKS-style assault rifle Norwood kept in their bedroom.

At the time of the raid, police claim that Lofton told them that Norwood had purchased the lottery ticket but she had done the actual scratching. This differed from Lofton’s subsequent efforts to convince a Macon County court that she’d purchased a ticket with her own babysitting money. Lofton said the ticket she purchased yielded a free ticket, which turned out to be the $50k winner.

Macon County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Griffin wasn’t buying Lofton’s babysitting story, suggesting it was “more likely than not” that the ticket was purchased with drug money. But Griffin allowed her to keep the ticket, saying the state’s asset forfeiture laws didn’t extend to lottery winnings.

Griffin said the lottery winnings were a “windfall” that was unrelated to Norwood’s criminality. Referencing the increasingly rapacious appetite of US law enforcement to deem everything subject to forfeiture, Griffin said “at some point in time, the argument that everything stems from something has to stop.”

The state disagreed and appealed the ruling. Last week, the appeals court unanimously overturned Griffin, saying they found a “direct link between the lottery winnings and the funds used to purchase the original ticket.” As such, the court said the winnings could “reasonably be considered ‘proceeds traceable’ to Norwood’s illegal drug sales.”

Macon Country police have opted to claim their ‘winnings’ in the form of a $35,215 lump-sum payment rather than take the full $50k in installments over several years. Because hey, if they do find themselves running short of cash, the world is their ATM.

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