How Much Is Your Privacy Worth? A Lot, if You’ve Won $560 Million

How Much Is Your Privacy Worth? A Lot, if You’ve Won $560 Million

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NASHUA, N.H. — The winner of a $560 million Powerball jackpot has yet to claim her prize, but her lawyers say she is already being preyed upon and is highly stressed.

When the winner, known in court papers only as Jane Doe, said last month that she wanted to remain anonymous, New Hampshire officials said they could not give her the money — the seventh largest jackpot in United States history — unless her name was made public.

Since then, her lawyers have been deluged with offers from around the world of ideas for how she might get the money and still keep her privacy.

Dozens of people offered to legally change their names to match Ms. Doe’s in order to collect the money for her — for fees of $1 million or more.

A homeless mother of five in North Carolina offered to turn in Ms. Doe’s winning ticket in exchange for a six-bedroom house, a used car and a small trust for each of her children.

Someone in Costa Rica would accept the winning ticket on behalf of Ms. Doe in exchange for $1 million, travel expenses and “warm clothes to wear in New Hampshire.” Other people wrote simply asking for handouts.

The outpouring of appeals, outlined by Ms. Doe’s lawyers in legal papers, underscored the point they tried to make on Tuesday in a courtroom in Nashua — that sudden wealth exposes an unsuspecting citizen to vultures, swindlers and other parasites who harass the winner in an attempt to leech off some of the money for themselves.

The lawyers said they want to keep their client’s real name private to protect her from what they described as “violence, threats, harassment, scams and constant unwanted solicitation” that have befallen previous lottery winners.

But New Hampshire’s lottery commission takes a very different stance, arguing that the state has an overriding interest in disclosing the names of lottery winners — not to satisfy the curiosity of neighbors or promote sales of lottery tickets, but as a hedge against corruption.

The commission oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues and prizes a year.

“When somebody wins a public lottery of $560 million, there is a public interest in knowing who the winner was, and that it is a fair and equitable process,” John J. Conforti, an assistant attorney general representing the lottery commission, told the court.

The state gave little credence to the argument that identifying Ms. Doe would jeopardize her safety, saying that any risk could be managed by engaging a security detail. Ms. Doe’s lawyers said they were already lining up bodyguards.

Most states view the names of winners of significant prizes as a matter of public record, though a few permit winners to keep their identities private. Some states, including New Hampshire, allow trusts and not just individuals to claim winnings.

For almost two hours Tuesday, Judge Charles Temple of the Hillsborough County Superior Court heard arguments in the case, which has made headlines around the world for the eye-popping size of the prize and for an “if only” twist in Ms. Doe’s plight.

When Ms. Doe realized she had the winning ticket, she followed the instructions on the ticket and on the lottery commission’s website to “sign the ticket.”

If only she had talked to a lawyer first, she might have avoided the entire issue. She could have set up a trust that would sign the ticket, claim the prize and be the public face of the winner, rather than Ms. Doe personally. But lottery officials say the chance to do that ended when she signed her name.

Ms. Doe’s lawyers — Steven M. Gordon and Billy Shaheen, high-powered attorneys in the state — said the ticket and state’s website were misleading because they did not explain that by signing a ticket, winners give up their anonymity. Nowhere, they said, does the website advise the winner “that there is an option for a trust to claim a prize.”

Lottery officials said they urge winners to sign the ticket as a safeguard in case it is lost or stolen, and that the lottery could not dispense legal advice.

The fact that New Hampshire already allows trusts to sign the tickets, effectively allowing a winner to remain anonymous, undermines the state’s argument that a winner’s identity must be publicly disclosed to protect the integrity of the process, Mr. Gordon said.

Before going to court, Ms. Doe’s lawyers talked with the lottery commission to try to resolve the matter. Ms. Doe’s lawyers suggested that she be allowed to “white-out” her signature in front of the commission — a procedure used at least once, in Ohio — and then have a trust sign it.

The commission rejected that idea, saying removing her name would alter the ticket, which is against the lottery rules, and thus render it void.

Ms. Doe’s lawyers also suggested that the original winning ticket could be photocopied and put under seal, while her signature on the photocopy could be covered up and replaced with the name of the trust.

It is not clear when the court might rule in the case.

For each day that passes, Ms. Doe is forgoing about $14,000 in interest on the unclaimed winnings.

The two sides indicated that they were close to agreeing that while the judge mulls his decision about whether to make Ms. Doe’s name public, the money could be transferred to her.

But that will take at least a few days. Charles R. McIntyre, executive director of the state lottery, who called the winning ticket “the most valuable piece of paper on the planet, more valuable than a Rembrandt,” said it would take some time “to get that much cash in the state.”

It is not known whether Ms. Doe has shared news of her jackpot with anyone besides her lawyers.

After court, Mr. Shaheen, one of her lawyers, told reporters that his advice to her was simple: “If you like your family and you like your friends and you like your relatives, don’t tell anybody.”

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Published at Tue, 13 Feb 2018 23:01:58 +0000

Meth, the Forgotten Killer, Is Back. And It’s Everywhere.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — They huddled against the biting wind, pacing from one corner to another hoping to score heroin or pills. But a different drug was far more likely to be on offer outside the train station downtown, where homeless drug users live in tents pitched on the sidewalk.

“Everybody has meth around here — everybody,” said Sean, a 27-year-old heroin user who hangs out downtown and gave only his first name. “It’s the easiest to find.”

The scourge of crystal meth, with its exploding labs and ruinous effect on teeth and skin, has been all but forgotten amid national concern over the opioid crisis. But 12 years after Congress took aggressive action to curtail it, meth has returned with a vengeance. Here in Oregon, meth-related deaths vastly outnumber those from heroin. At the United States border, agents are seizing 10 to 20 times the amounts they did a decade ago. Methamphetamine, experts say, has never been purer, cheaper or more lethal.

Oregon took a hard line against meth in 2006, when it began requiring a doctor’s prescription to buy the nasal decongestant used to make it. “It was like someone turned off a switch,” said J.R. Ujifusa, a senior prosecutor in Multnomah County, which includes Portland.

“But where there is a void,” he added, “someone fills it.”

The decades-long effort to fight methamphetamine is a tale with two takeaways. One: The number of domestic meth labs has declined precipitously, and along with it the number of children harmed and police officers sickened by exposure to dangerous chemicals. But also, two: There is more meth on the streets today, more people are using it, and more of them are dying.

Drugs go through cycles — in the 1980s and early ’90s, the use of crack cocaine surged. In the early 2000s, meth made from pseudoephedrine, the decongestant in drugstore products like Sudafed, poured out of domestic labs like those in the early seasons of the hit television show “Breaking Bad.”

Narcotics squads became glorified hazmat teams, spending entire shifts on cleanup. In 2004, the Portland police responded to 114 meth houses. “We rolled from meth lab to meth lab,” said Sgt. Jan M. Kubic of the county sheriff’s office. “Patrol would roll up on a domestic violence call, and there’d be a lab in the kitchen. Everything would come to a screeching halt.”

In 2005 Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Act, which put pseudoephedrine behind the counter, limited sales to 7.5 grams per customer in a 30-day period and required pharmacies to track sales. Although some meth makers tried “smurfing,” sending emissaries to several stores to make purchases, meth cases plummeted.

States like Oregon and Mississippi required a prescription, making smurfing almost impossible. And a new epidemic took hold: prescription painkillers and opiates like heroin. With no more meth lab explosions on the nightly news, the public forgot about the drug.

But meth, it turns out, was only on hiatus. When the ingredients became difficult to come by in the United States, Mexican drug cartels stepped in. Now fighting meth often means seizing large quantities of ready-made product in highway stops.

The cartels have inundated the market with so much pure, low-cost meth that dealers have more of it than they know what to do with. Under pressure from traffickers to unload large quantities, law enforcement officials say, dealers are even offering meth to customers on credit. In Portland, the drug has made inroads in black neighborhoods, something experienced narcotics investigators say was unheard-of five years ago.

“I have been involved with meth for the last 25 years. A wholesale plummet of price per pound, combined with a huge increase of purity, tells me they have perfected the production or manufacturing of methamphetamine,” said Steven Bell, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “They have figured out the chemical reactions to get the best bang for their bucks.”

Nearly 100 percent pure and about $5 a hit, the new meth is all the more difficult for users to resist. “We’re seeing a lot of longtime addicts who used crack cocaine switch to meth,” said Branden Combs, a Portland officer assigned to the street crimes unit. “You ask them about it, and they’ll say: ‘Hey, it’s half the price, and it’s good quality.’”

Nationally, nearly 6,000 people died from stimulant use — mostly meth — in 2015, a 255 percent increase from 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of the nation’s drug overdose toll that was attributed to stimulants inched up to 11 percent of the deaths.

United States Customs and Border Protection statistics show that in the past five years, the amount of meth seized has tripled, while the seizures for other drugs have declined or had only modest increases.

In Oregon, 232 people died from meth use in 2016, nearly twice as many as died from heroin — and three times as many as died from meth 10 years before, according to the state Department of Health.

Between 2011 and 2015, meth arrests were the only type of drug arrests in Portland to increase, and meth has the highest correlation with serious crimes. More than one in five burglars and nearly 40 percent of car thieves were also charged with meth crimes, according to the Portland Police Bureau.

“Heroin is a depressant. It shuts you down and you’re not capable of doing a whole lot,” Sergeant Kubic said. Meth is a stimulant: “Tweakers are jacked up. They have lowered inhibitions and are awake 24/7, running around at night, so burglaries become easier.”

Eric, a former dancer in Portland, who asked that his last name not be published, said he now worked as a “professional booster.” Pawnshop owners give him “laundry lists” of coveted items, and he goes out and steals them, getting 50 cents on the dollar.

A person injects a combination of methamphetamine and heroin in Portland. Meth arrests in Oregon rose 64 percent from 2011 to 2015, the only drug-related arrest category to increase.CreditAmanda Lucier for The New York Times

The cartels’ efficiency has flooded the market far beyond Oregon. In 2016, customs authorities in San Diego seized 21,747 pounds of meth, almost 10 times what was apprehended in 2007. At border points in Arizona, California and Texas, agents seized 24 times as much.

In Montana, meth violations more than tripled between 2010 and 2015. In drug-related deaths in Oklahoma, meth is by far the No. 1 cause (oxycodone was a distant second). In Hawaii, where meth was first introduced in the United States, the number of people over 50 who said meth was their drug of choice has doubled in five years. In South Dakota, the attorney general has proclaimed an epidemic.

To counteract the falling price, drug cartels are actively pursuing new markets on the East Coast, according to the National Drug Threat Assessment released by the D.E.A. last fall.

Meth is carried across the border by people on foot, or hidden in cars and trucks. It can be converted to liquid, and has been smuggled in iced tea bottles, disguised as horse shampoo and hidden in tortillas.

The ingredient initially used to make it, ephedrine, was first synthesized in 1887 and later used to treat asthma. It was often used in the military and by truckers who needed to stay awake. For decades, United States lawmakers have been trying to curtail its use. But each time an ingredient was outlawed, something else took its place.

In 2007, Mexico cracked down on pseudoephedrine. The cartels reverted to using phenyl-2-propanone, known as P2P, a method popularized by biker gangs in the 1970s. Although it, too, is restricted and monitored, there are many ways to manufacture it.

Public health experts say little is being done to combat the surge in meth because it has been so overshadowed by opiates. And, there are fewer tools to combat meth than to combat opioids: There is nothing like Naloxone, which can reverse opioid overdoses, or methadone, which can stem opioid cravings.

Dr. Paul F. Lewis, the public health officer for the Portland metropolitan area, said the problem was complicated by the fact that many users take both drugs.

“We need to think about substance abuse much more broadly,” Dr. Lewis said. “Eighty or 90 percent of heroin users are also using meth. It deserves more attention.”

Eric, the former dancer, said the meth on the street was so strong that it worked best when used in combination with heroin to temper the effects.

“I have seen meth being used by people from age 12 to 90,” he said. “It’s a rush from all hell. Explosive. Intense. That goes away, and you’re up for a long period of time. At first it’s good. And then, after a while, it’s too much.”

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Published at Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:32:21 +0000