(WSVN) - She won a little lottery money. The bad news: the state took it and said she owed them money, but she doesn’t. She still couldn’t get her lottery winnings, so she asked Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to help her hit the jackpot.

When Marlene looks at the pictures on her wall, including her two adult children, she feels like a lucky lady.

Marlene Campbell: “I’m blessed. Yeah, I’m blessed, I’m blessed.”

And she wanted to be lucky in another way, after she read about people winning the lottery.

Marlene Campbell: “I was just curious and said, ‘Hey, let me see if today’s my lucky day.'”

She bought a scratch-off ticket. She scratched. She screamed.

Marlene Campbell: “I was so shocked when I scratched off and saw the amount I won: $1,000.”

She headed to the Miami Lakes lottery office, filled out the form to collect her cash … and her lucky streak ended.

Marlene Campbell: “The lady called me, and she told me I won’t be able to get that money because I filed for unemployment.”

The state of Florida was seizing her $1,000 because, they said, she had collected too much unemployment.

Marlene’s response?

Marlene Campbell: “I’ve been working with the state of Florida for like 28 years, and I never, ever filed for unemployment check.”

Marlene then discovered someone stole her Social Security number and was getting an unemployment check in Marlene’s name.

Marlene Campbell: “I feel really horrible to know that somebody can use all of my information, and they’re using my information to apply for unemployment check.”

Marlene notified the state unemployment office and got nowhere.

Marlene Campbell: “I called every day and they said, ‘No, we’re not doing anything yet.'”

And the days went by. August turned into September. Halloween passed. Thanksgiving went by, and Marlene’s hopes of getting her lottery money faded.

Marlene Campbell: “So, one morning I said, ‘I’m going to call Help Me Howard, to help me.”

This is the perfect example of a bureaucratic mess. Legally, Howard, how does Marlene get out of it?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “If you win more than $600, the law allows the state to seize lottery winnings if you owe child support, owe the IRS or were overpaid collecting unemployment. If your name is on the list by mistake, there is an administrative process to fix the problem. If the state won’t do their job, you have to go to court.”

We contacted the unemployment office, called the Florida Reemployment Assistance Service. They were no help at all.

We then spoke to the agency that oversees them, the Florida Department of Commerce, and they straightened it out. Marlene got her $1,000 lottery winnings.

Marlene Campbell: “And I could get my funds to go enjoy myself.”

Marlene got her money after her call to Help Me Howard, and with the money in her pocket, her next call will be to make an airline reservation.

Marlene Campbell: “I want to go see my son, because I miss him really bad. I don’t want to cry. I miss my son.”

Enjoy the trip, Marlene. Now, some people who owe unemployment money or child support try to outsmart the state by having a friend collect the lottery money for them so they don’t have to pay their debt … but that’s a crime and you can go to jail, so don’t try that.

Gambling you can solve a problem? Wanna make sure you’re in the money? Cash in with us, so we can scratch off that headache from your list.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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