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Check’s in the mail ... somewhere

Standing front her home Bristol Wednesday September 5 2012 Therese Johnsher husbJeff have been waiting for $50001 prize they wfrom

Standing in front of her home in Bristol on Wednesday, September 5, 2012, Therese Johnson and her husband Jeff have been waiting for a $50,001 prize they won from the Lucky Day Lotto, that Illinois Lottery officials say was mailed. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 6, 2012 3:21PM

The check is in the mail.

Seriously ... it really is.


Or at least it was.

That’s pretty much the sum of what Therese and Jeff Johnson have gotten from the Illinois Lottery since June, when the Yorkville couple found out she was a $50,000 Lucky Lotto winner.

The scratch-off ticket was purchased by Jeff in his wife’s name at the Citgo station in Sandwich. As the cook at the Bristol Tap, Jeff hits Art’s Supermarket bright and early every morning for meat and other supplies for the pub known for its superior burgers. And after his daily shopping duties, he trots next door to the gas station where he’s been buying $110 worth of tickets weekly for a while now.

Jeff calls it “a family thing” but Therese, who’s been playing for 22 years, admits she’s the Lottery fan. In the past, the couple scored a couple of decent hits — but nothing like this cool 50-grand.

I can only imagine the excitement the Johnsons felt when they realized their good fortune.

Likewise, I can only imagine their frustrations after filing the claim to collect their windfall — $35,000.70 after taxes — on June 25 — and not yet seeing any of the money.

Here’s how things have gone down, so far. Therese, who works behind the bar at the Bristol Tap, immediately drove to the Illinois Lottery regional office in Rockford to file her claim, where she was told amounts over $25,000 have to be issued out of Springfield.

Expect a wait of about a month, she was told. But five weeks passed. Then six. And seven.

Each week, Jeff said, he called the state lottery office, even offering to drive to Springfield to pick up the money himself.

Be patient, the folks there assured them. The check was issued July 28 ... it’s really in the mail.

Which begs the question, why does the Illinois Lottery use snail mail — no overnight postage, no special delivery — for checks that hefty?

The answer: Because that’s the way it’s always been done.

Checks that size, Illinois Lottery spokesman Mike Lang told me, come from the state comptroller’s office, and “they’ve done it that way for years.”

“This is unusual,” especially for a check that substantial, he admitted of the Johnson snafu.

Lang also said winners have the option of receiving their money through direct deposit, although only about half choose that route. But Therese didn’t have her checkbook with her when she showed up in Rockford, so she couldn’t give them the banking information needed.

She remembers having an “uneasy feeling” when informed the only other option was through the mail.

The good news: A couple days ago, she finally received the forms needed to begin the process all over again.

It will take at least a month for the new check to be issued. In the meantime, Jeff Johnson says, they’ll continue practicing patience.

Only it’s definitely wearing thin for this couple who say they’ll use the winnings to pay off bills. When they returned the paperwork for a new check, also included was a self addressed envelope, stamped and ready to go for overnight delivery back to them.

“I doubt it will do any good,” grumbled Jeff Johnson.

Who knows ... maybe they’ll get lucky.

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