More than 5,000 Florida lotto winners flagged for potential DEO debt within a year

State tells News 6 overpayment alerts are triggered by ‘incomplete claims’

The Florida State Lottery recently said over 5,000 winners “show(ed) potential outstanding state owed debt balance” within the last year.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Florida State Lottery recently said over 5,000 winners “show(ed) potential outstanding state owed debt balance” within the last year.

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

[TRENDING: Roller coaster ride of temperatures in Central Florida with new front | Attorney general reviewing complaints against Volusia hot tub company | Ask Trooper Steve: Why does Florida not have a front, rear license plate? | Become a News 6 Insider]

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

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

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

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

Moore is one of dozens of Florida residents who have contacted News 6 to help reclaim lottery cash prizes taken to fulfill unemployment overpayments.

News 6 featured Moore and Jerry Kirkpatrick, of Ocala, in a story on Dec. 6. Both men told News 6 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 a DEO debt.

On Monday, Kirkpatrick joined the list of lotto winners who lost, then reclaimed, their winning lotto prize.

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

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

Get today’s headlines in minutes with Your Florida Daily:

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

Moore said he went to the Jacksonville lottery office to cash in his winning Whole Lotta 500′s scratch-off ticket in November and was told he owed $1,200.

He contacted News 6 and provided proof he was eligible for benefits. In fact, a review of his records produced an additional $275 in unemployment assistance.

“They direct deposited $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 overpayment is flagged in an account, it does not mean an overpayment has occurred,” she said.

Jones told News 6 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 webpage for guidance on how to resolve their overpayment issue, which includes a Federal Overpayment Waiver Request guide and an example of the form.

If you have an unemployment or financial issue, email or text the words “Make Ends Meet” along with your issue to 407-676-7428.

Get today’s headlines in minutes with Your Florida Daily:

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.