Powerball Hoax Taints Jewish Nursing Home Owner's Philanthropic Effort

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A customer picks up her California Powerball lottery tickets in Hawthorne, California on January 13, 2016.
A customer picks up her California Powerball lottery tickets in Hawthorne, California on January 13, 2016. Credit: AFP

A nurse at a southern California nursing home thought she scored a slice of the big prize after the facility’s Jewish owner bought thousands of tickets for employees — but it turned out to all be a hoax.

The nurse’s son told her she was one of three winners of the giant $1.5 billion windfall and even sent a Photoshopped image of the supposed winning ducat.

He later admitted the claim was a practical joke, the New York Daily News reported.

The hoax ended a brief period of euphoria at the Pomona nursing home where the woman works.

It also put a sour note on what seemed like a remarkable mitzvah by nursing home magnate Shlomo Rechnitz.

Rechnitz, the largest nursing home provider in California, said he had bought over 15,000 Powerball tickets for all employees and residents at his facilities as a morale-booster.

Along with the ticket came cards reading: “We will provide the ticket. You provide the dream.”

Rechnitz is known for bursts of unusual philanthropy. He bailed out a bankrupt Los Angeles Chabad house and gave $1 million to Hurricane Sandy victims.

He once forked over $50 to each of hundreds of U.S. servicemen stranded at an Ireland airport.

Rechnitz has had brushes with controversy too.

His nursing homes received poor ratings in an extensive investigative report by the Sacramento Bee newspaper. And the FBI raided offices at one home in 2014 in an ongoing probe into suspected criminal activity, the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles reported.

Three ticket holders in all with a claim on a record $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot were laying low on Thursday, their identities officially still a mystery even as lottery officials revealed the retailers in California, Florida and Tennessee that sold them the lucky tickets.

Each of the winning tickets is worth $528.8 million to the holders, lottery officials said in California, one of 44 states plus Washington, D.C., and two U.S. territories that sold millions of Powerball tickets.

The winning numbers of 08 27 34 04 19 and Powerball 10, picked in a drawing on Wednesday night, appeared on tickets sold in three stores: a 7-Eleven convenience store in Chino Hills, California, a Publix supermarket in Melbourne Beach, Florida and Naifeh’s Food Mart in Munford, Tennessee. The jackpot winners overcame odds of 1 in 292 million.

“The Chino Hills winner has not come forward yet,” California Lottery said on its Twitter feed.

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