What would you do if you found a winning lottery ticket in the trash?
Would you say “finders, keepers!” and pocket a prize worth $1 million — or would you put a higher price on your honesty?
The owners of a Massachusetts convenience store are being hailed for their integrity after they returned a $1-million-winning scratch ticket that a customer had accidentally thrown away.
The ticket belonged to Lea Rose Fiega, a regular scratch-ticket customer at the Lucky Stop convenience store in Southwick, Mass. Fiega played the $30 Diamond Millions lottery last March but did not fully scratch her ticket, and instead discarded it at the store.
The shop owners’ son, Abdi Shah, discovered the prize-winning ticket 10 days later.
“One evening I was going through the tickets from the trash and found out that she didn’t scratch the number,” Shah told local broadcaster WWLP-TV. “I scratched the number and it was $1 million underneath the ticket.”
Shah immediately faced a crisis of conscience. Should he give it back? Or should he keep it?
“I had $1 million in my hand,” he said. “And on the other hand, I wanted to do something good.”
He told his parents what he’d found, but they left the decision up to him.
“He didn’t sleep for two nights,” his 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.'”
The Shahs knew that they’d sold the ticket to Fiega, a regular who worked in the area, so they sent Abdi to see her at work.
“He came to my office and said, ‘my Mom and Dad would like to see you,’” Fiega said. “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.”
“As soon as she came in I handed her a $1-million ticket,” Abdi Shah said. “She freaked out and cried like a baby.”
The Shahs will get a $10,000 bonus for selling the winning lottery ticket, but that’s a far cry from the $1 million they might’ve pocketed if they’d kept it for themselves.
Fiega says she will save most of her winnings for her retirement. She did give the Shahs an additional reward to thank them for their extraordinary honesty.
“I mean, who does that?” she said. “They’re great people. I am beyond blessed.”
— With files from The Associated Press