The Medford Police Department won the lottery Wednesday when the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled the agency can collect the cash originally awarded to a woman who purchased a $1 million scratch ticket through illegal means in 2005.
The department was victorious in its long court battle against Christina Elizabeth Goodenow, 45, who argued that it was excessive punishment to strip her of the $1 million in winnings.
In 2005, Goodenow stole the identity of her boyfriend's deceased mother by using a Visa card that belonged to the woman to make $12,000 in purchases.
Goodenow bought a Million Dollar Jackpot ticket on Oct. 9, 2005, at Fair City Market in Central Point with the credit card.
Incredibly, the card hit for $1 million, which was to be paid in 20 installments of $50,000 per year, according to Medford police Chief Tim George.
"By the time we found out about this, she had already spent a large portion of the first payment," George said.
After taxes, the Oregon Lottery had paid Goodenow $33,500 by the time she was charged with several crimes, including aggravated theft, forgery and cheating.
Goodenow asked lottery officials to keep her win quiet, claiming to be a victim of domestic violence.
Goodenow pleaded no contest to these crimes and was sentenced to probation.
As part of her sentencing, the lottery money was forfeited to the Medford Police Department. Police agencies in Oregon can collect money gained through criminal activity.
Goodenow, in an attempt to keep her winnings, filed an appeal in 2007.
The state appeals court filed its opinion on Wednesday, finding that Goodenow had no claim to the cash.
Goodenow's lawyer, Michelle R. Burrows, argued that denying her the winnings was unlawful under a state statutes meant to bar excessive fines.
Burrows said Goodenow's crimes, though felonies, were not serious enough to merit taking away her $1 million in winnings.
Burrows argued that because the boyfriend's mother was dead, no one suffered a loss because of the thefts. Burrows added that large forfeitures are usually involved with drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering and not lower-level theft and forgery cases.
However, the judges panel that heard the appeal said that depends not only on the harm a defendant might have caused, but also "the gain that the defendant realized."
The appeals judges determined the $1 million forfeiture was not excessive because it took only money Goodenow collected through illegal means and did not impose a fine. In essence, the forfeiture returned her finances to the level they were before she bought the ticket illegally.
"(The forfeiture) deprives (the) defendant of a net gain from her crimes but does not inflict a net loss," according to the appeal.
Meanwhile, the Medford Police Department has been sitting on the winnings until the appeal process ended.
George believes the case could drag on if it is kicked up to the Oregon Supreme Court.
"This is long-awaited good news for the City of Medford," George said.
Because the money was linked to a criminal case, the bulk of it will be dedicated to the Police Department.
George said a portion of the money would be used to expand the evidence and property room.
About 10 percent of the money will go to the state's general fund, in accordance with forfeiture laws.
Oregon Lottery officials previously have said they have no interest in trying to recoup the money.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.