An Idaho woman who is splitting America's second-largest lottery jackpot may need some legal luck to hold onto all of her share, according to media reports.
Holly Lahti, 29, is the Rathdrum, Idaho, mother of two identified last week as the second of two ticketholders in the $380 million Mega Millions drawing on Jan. 4. Jim and Carolyn McCullar of Ephrata, Wash., came forward as holders of the first ticket almost right away.
Lahti's ex-con estranged husband learned last week from a reporter of his wife's good fortune.
Both have had run-ins with the law.
Joshua Lahti, 31, was convicted of domestic battery, drug possession and buying alcohol for a minor, according to the Daily Mail of London, which said he has been arrested more than a dozen times.
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The couple married in 2001 and are legally separated but not divorced, according to court records examined by the Coeur d'Alene Press newspaper. Joshua Lahti, a 1997 Lakeland High graduate, was arrested for violating a no-contact order and battery in 2002 and 2003, the Press said.
Both Holly and Joshua Lahti were booked on battery charges in January 2003 and sent to jail, the Daily Mail said.
Holly Lahti was pictured with a black eye in her booking mug shot.
The couple have daughters ages 10 and 12.
Attorneys differ on interpreting whether Joshua Lahti is entitled to any of Holly Lahti's winnings. Some say their continued marriage means the husband gets half the winnings even though they have been separated. Others say a judge could have discretion and leave the husband with less than half.
Lahti wasn't on hand for Wednesday's announcement in Boise that she was the winner.
"She's requested that the media respect her privacy and not attempt to contact her until she's prepared to speak to you," Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson said at a news conference.
David Workman, Idaho Lottery spokesman, told the Press that only Holly Lahti will be given a check from the Lottery.
"Holly is the person who claimed the ticket, so she's the person we'll pay," Workman said.
However, she hasn't decided whether to take the annuity or cash option. If she elects the one-time $190 million cash option, she would receive a check for more than $80 million after taxes. If she chooses an annuity, 26 payments over 25 years, her annual payment would be $4.9 million after taxes. She has nearly two months to decide, the Press said.
Lahti worked since 2007 as a customer service representative at Inland Northwest Bank in Post Falls, but she resigned Jan. 10, said Holly Poquette, the bank's chief financial officer.
Suzanna Spencer, INB's Post Falls branch manager, said the bank took about 100 calls from people, predominantly customers, wishing her well. The bank is keeping a large envelope full of cards from people for her.
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"People know what a great person she is, and they are excited for her," Spencer said. "She's very well-liked. She's a great woman, and I'm sure that will never change. She's already made this place busier."
Leasa Moore, a clerk at Ady's Convenience & Car Wash, said Lahti bought a ticket at the store the day of the drawing and returned the next day to check the numbers.
"She let out a big scream," Moore said. "She was pretty excited."
Moore said Lahti is a regular at the store, which is near the bank where Lahti worked.
"She's a great gal, very levelheaded," Moore added.
The winners had to match five numbers plus the "Mega ball." The numbers were 4, 8, 15, 25 and 47, and 42 as the Mega ball.
Jim, 68, and Carolyn, 63, McCullar had played some combination of those numbers for years because they're based on the couple's birthdays.
Anderson said Lahti let the computer pick her numbers.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.