- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

CROSS LANES, W.Va. (AP) — A Powerball lottery winner who donated millions of his record jackpot to churches was drinking in a strip club early yesterday when $545,000 was stolen from his sport utility vehicle, police said.

Someone broke into Jack Whittaker’s Lincoln Navigator at the Pink Pony club and stole a briefcase containing $245,000 worth of $100 bills and three $100,000 cashier’s checks. The briefcase with the money and checks still inside was found later behind a nearby trash bin.

“It’s a known fact that Mr. Whittaker does carry a lot of money around with him, because he does frequent not only that club, but several other establishments … and he does gamble,” said Kanawha County Sheriff Dave Tucker.

No arrests had been made, but authorities believe the thief has close ties to the Pink Pony. A window on a second vehicle parked on the lot also was broken, and a compact disc player and several CDs stolen from that vehicle were recovered along with the briefcase.

“Somebody that’s driving by or walks by and busts into two cars doesn’t leave the product there,” Kanawha County Chief Deputy Phil Morris said. “It’s a snatch-and-grab. They leave. They don’t hide it in the area. Generally speaking, that type of individual would want to conceal it so they can return. So, the people in the club would have to be suspects.”

Mr. Whittaker, a building contractor, was already a millionaire this past Christmas Day when he claimed a $113 million cash option on a record $314.9 million Powerball jackpot.

He promised to give away 10 percent of his winnings, and has so far donated at least $3.5 million to various churches, people and causes.

According to police, Mr. Whittaker arrived at the strip club at about 9:30 p.m. Monday. He left at 12:30 a.m. and went to a nearby motel to meet an unidentified person, who did not show up. He then returned to the strip club at 2:30 a.m. and left his vehicle’s motor running.

When Mr. Whittaker left the establishment after 5 a.m., he discovered the broken window and tried to re-enter the club to telephone police, but club employees initially refused to allow him inside.

“Once they got him outside, they didn’t want him back in,” Sheriff Tucker said.

Club employees declined to comment to the Associated Press. But Deputy Morris said club workers told deputies that they allowed Mr. Whittaker to stay at the club until after 5 a.m. because he had drunk too much alcohol.

Mr. Whittaker told deputies that he was drugged upon his return to the strip club, and he provided police with a urine sample for analysis, Deputy Morris said.

“There’s no confusion on the fact that he didn’t have all his faculties,” Deputy Morris said.

As police dusted the vehicles for fingerprints, Mr. Whittaker sat on the curb, wearing a white 10-gallon cowboy hat. He then left without commenting. His spokesman said Mr. Whittaker planned to issue a statement later.

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