In the aftermath of the highly-publicized mix-up, lottery officials blamed the blunder on “human error.”
New records obtained by the WBZ I-Team illustrate how the simple mistake happened.
Winning the jackpot comes down to picking the right numbers. But in this case, it appears a lottery employee was looking at the wrong ones.
Right after the Powerball drawing, Massachusetts lottery employees received a printout of the big winners, which included the Powerball jackpot, along with two $1 million prizes.
In the printout, the row labeled “Jackpot” has the unique number identifying the gas station in Chicopee that actually sold the winning ticket.
But in the midst of the overnight excitement, a lottery employee was apparently looking at the digits just above it—the identifying numbers associated with the Handy Variety in Watertown.
Nobody else noticed the mistake until the announcement had already been made, reporters had flocked to the Watertown convenience store, and the owners had already contemplated what they would do with the $50,000 payout.
The novelty check still ended up in the right hands of jackpot winner Mavis Wanczyk, but the owners of Handy Variety had the deflating moment of realizing there payout was actually only $10,000 for selling one of the $1 million prizes.
As reporter questions flooded in about the mix-up, an internal email WBZ-TV obtained show executive director Michael Sweeney opted for transparency.
“My preference is to address these inquiries,” Sweeney wrote to colleagues. “It was human error. Buck stops with me.”
A few hours later, that is exactly the message he delivered at a press conference.
“The buck stops with me,” he told reporters. “I’m the person where it begins. I’m the person where it ends.”
Lottery spokesman Christian Teja told WBZ-TV the current review includes a senior level employee shadowing the operations. Upon the completion of that review, the agency will decide on any recommended changes, Teja said.