Tennessee family claiming to be Powerball winners comes forward

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NEW YORK — A family from Munford, Tennessee, claiming to hold one of three winning Powerball tickets, walked onto the Today Show set Friday morning and revealed themselves to the world.

John and Lisa Robinson, along with their daughter Tiffany — and their lawyer, Joe Townsend and his daughter Ilene — were featured on the Today Show segment. The Robinsons said they had won the $1.5 billion Powerball, which they will have to split three ways with other winners from Florida and California.

In a bizarre scene, host Savannah Guthrie led into the segment saying that the Today Show could not verify that they had won the Powerball, since the family had not yet contacted state lottery officials.

The caption on screen even put “winning ticket” in quotes.

Why reach out to the Today Show and go public before cashing in the ticket?

“Well, actually, it was his idea,” John Robinson said, pointing to his lawyer.

Lawyer Joe Townsend explained: “I think the American public wants to hear from them, and even though they want to be private after this is over, they want to let the American public know they’re the winners.”

Townsend wanted the Robinsons to call a national media outlet before cashing in their ticket to ensure that they could control their own story.

Ilene Townsend, the lawyer’s daughter, was able to contact the Today Show’s producers.

“They were rightly a little suspicious,” Townsend said. “But we talked and made it happen.”

The couple told the Today Show that they watched the number drawing live on Wednesday night, and checked the numbers multiple times to ensure that they had won. Even then, they still weren’t sure, Robinson explained.

“I said, ‘well, I’ll believe it when the news comes on in the morning and they say there’s a winner been in Munford,’ ” he said.

Robinson said he was scared after he learned that he won. He said he knew he wanted to get a lawyer and an accountant.

When co-host Carson Daily asked whether he was nervous about carrying a ticket worth more than $100 million in his front pocket, Robinson admitted that, “Now I’m nervous because everybody knows.”

One reason to be suspicious of the family’s claim: The Robinsons said that they were headed directly to the lottery commission after appearing on the Today Show. But a Powerball spokeswoman confirmed that the winning tickets must be claimed in the states in which they were purchased. So the Robinsons would have to get right back on a plane to Tennessee to claim their prize.

The family said they don’t plan to move, and they even went into work on Thursday.

At the end of the segment, weatherman Al Roker shouted to the Robinsons: “Mom! Dad!”