It’s Been Over 12 Years Since Idaho’s Biggest Mega Millions Winner
No one has one the Mega Millions jackpot since January 31, which means the jackpot keeps climbing. Tuesday (April 11) night's jackpot is $441 million, with a cash option of $238.8 million. As we wait for the drawing for the 14th largest Mega Millions jackpot of all time, we wondered...has anyone from Idaho ever won the Mega Millions?
It’s a good question to ask because when you hear about big winners in Idaho the names are almost attached to the OTHER multi-state lottery game, Powerball. Idaho has produced an impressive five Powerball jackpot winners. Pam Hiatt ($87.5 Million) and Brad Duke ($220.3 Million) are probably the most well-known of those five winners, but we dug up the stories of the other three winners HERE. Despite winning jackpots a decade apart, Hiatt and Duke will forever be linked because they ended up buying their winning tickets at the EXACT same Jackson’s store at 2728 S Orchard Street.
How Many Idahoans Have Won the Mega Millions?
Just by the nature of when the two games started, more states have Powerball jackpot winners than Mega Millions jackpot winners. Powerball started in 1988 as “Lotto America” and rebranded in 1992. Mega Millions started began as “The Big Game” in 1996 and rebranded in 2002. 42 states and Washington D.C. have produced Powerball jackpot winners, while only 26 have made someone a Mega Millions jackpot winner.
Idaho is on that list. In 2011, Holly Lahti, a single mom in Rathdrum had one of the two winning tickets for a $380 million jackpot. Lahti chose not to appear at the press conference announcing where the Idaho Lottery announced that she would receive $190 after the money was split up between her and a couple in Washington State.
Some consider her one of the most mysterious lottery winners of all time because, after her win, she quit her job at Inland Northwest Bank, deleted many personal details from her social media accounts and essentially disappeared with her two young daughters.
What Happened to Holly Lahti?
Reading through what happened next, we can’t blame her for vanishing. The media started digging through court records and exposed what appeared to be a tumultuous relationship with her estranged husband whom she had not yet officially divorced.
According to the Coeur d’Alene Press, she made her first public appearance with her former co-workers about a little over a year later as the bank hosted a “Tips for a Cure” event at a local bar and grill to raise money for Relay for Life. Those who attended the event say Lahti was the same kind and friendly woman they remembered and saw her jump into bus tables during the event.
She gave her first interview in 2013, revealing that she and her girls fled to California after the win and decided to stay to avoid the media circus around their Idaho home. During that interview, Lahti revealed that her ex continued to be a presence in their daughter’s lives and that she didn’t have anything bad to say about him despite what the media had said about him immediately after her win.
After taxes, she received a lump sum of $80 million. Reading through The Spokesman Review’s account of her first interview it looks like she used a portion of that on tuition for her girls to attend private school, bought her own home, took a vacation and bought her dad a new home after his was destroyed by a fire.
Can I Vanish if I win Tuesday’s Mega Millions Jackpot in Idaho?
Not exactly. When the Idaho Lottery introduced its "Anonymous Winner Wednesday" series on Instagram, they explain that winners may choose to sign a No Publicity form which prevents them from posting photos of the winners on their social media platforms or website. They do a really fantastic job of making their winners feel comfortable.
However, if you win a prize of $600 or more, you are subject to Idaho's Public Records Law. Your full name, where you live, which game you played, how much you won, where you bought the ticket and how much that lottery retailer will receive for selling it is all public record.
That means if the media, or anyone else, asks for that information, the Lottery is legally required to release it to them.