Who deserves the $100,000?
Rural Fonda woman Mary Farrell was jailed and released this week, facing felony charges for claiming a $100,000 Iowa lottery prize that allegedly also belonged to a pool of other who went in to purchase the ticket.
Farrell had intended to use the money to try to erase large farming debts.
"A bunch of people came to us and asked us to investigate the situation. Some of them worked with her, others were acquaintances from the Albert City area," said Buena Vista County Deputy Doug Simons. "Based on the questions that these people had, we decided to investigate, and contacted the Iowa Lottery, where we worked along with their investigators."
Farrell, 54, and her husband David, held the winning Powerball ticket from the New Year's Eve drawing, and claimed the prize on January 12.
One week later, a representative of the group claiming to have pooled funds for the ticket contacted the sheriff's office.
According to Simons, the group of acquaintances had at times in the past pooled their money to buy tickets.
It took nearly two months to collect all the facts, but based on the testimony collected, the sheriff's department turned the information over to the county attorney who determined that a charge of First Degree Theft, a felony, was warranted.
"It will all come out in the testimony - there was certainly probable cause," Simons said.
The win made headlines as a rare instance in which a player won two prizes in the same drawing - the Farrells won the $100,000 and another $3 for matching the Powerball on another play on the same slip, lottery officials told the Pilot-Tribune. Because the Storm Lake regional lottery office can award only up to $100,000, David Farrell had to travel to Des Moines to pick up the winnings.
The Farrells said they planned to use the money toward paying off their debts. "I was farming a few years back, and I got out of farming and it left me with a lot of debt, so this will help clear a lot of that up," David Farrell said.
The area waited breathlessly in the days after the announcement that the winning ticket had been bought at the Albert City Pronto. When Farrell claimed the winnings, lottery officials said he was calm and collected, that he had apparently waited for a day off work before cashing in the ticket, and that he had remarked that it was "a nice day for a drive," upon getting the cash.
At this time, no money has been seized, and Mary Ferrell has not admitted to any crime, Deputy Simons noted. The Farrells could not be reached to respond to the charges.
The exact number of people who allegedly contributed to the purchase of the ticket has not yet been determined.
Farrell was booked into the Buena Vista County Jail and has been released on bond pending a court date. The investigation is continuing.