How a Florida Man Wound Up With a Bill for Thousands of Dollars After Winning Lottery

The state claims Joel Strickland owes money, but he says it's a mistake.

A Florida man is reeling after he won the lottery but ended up with a bill for thousands of dollars.

It all started when Joel Strickland showed up to the Tampa lotto office to claim his $1,000 winnings on a scratch-off ticket last September, according to WFLA. There, he was presented with a bill for $5,300 for money he was told he owed for an allegedly fraudulent unemployment claim from 2010. 

But Strickland said it's all a mistake — he said he was laid off for six months that year and then rehired by the same company. His boss can attest to that, he added.

"If I owed them, I'd be happy to pay it, but I don't," Strickland said, who said he is pursuing a refund.

According to state law, the Florida Lottery is required to check whether winners owe the state any money. If they do, that money is deducted from their winnings. If the debt turns out to be in error, winners can then attempt to get the money back. 

In the meantime, Strickland is worried about winning the lottery again.

"They could just keep taking it until the $5,300 is paid off and I never owed it," he said, adding that it "just ripped my heart out" when the state took his winnings.