When Russell DeMatteo got the 3 a.m. call Thursday from New Castle police, he thought his Lawrence County convenience store had been robbed.
Instead, he found Pennsylvania Lottery officials at Country Food Mart waiting to tell him that the store had sold the winning $171.4 million Powerball ticket. DeMatteo will collect $100,000 -- once a winner comes forward, or within 90 days.
"I certainly didn't expect this," said DeMatteo, 23. "Lottery (officials) wanted me to come and meet them immediately. I thought the store was broken into."
Lottery officials would not say when the ticket was sold at the store on 1214 Butler Ave. The lucky buyer has one year to claim the prize and can choose to take the full winnings in 30 annuity payments over 29 years or $93.4 million in one lump payment. Twenty-five percent in federal withholding taxes will be deducted from the prize in either case.
"We want the winner to take his or her time and seek proper financial advice before coming forward," state lottery executive director Ed Mahlman said. "We knew in the very early morning where it was sold, and we try to act as soon as possible."
Under state rules, the winner's name and hometown must be made public, Mahlman said.
DeMatteo said his store sold 1,023 Powerball tickets Wednesday, the day of the drawing.
DeMatteo, who bought the store from his mother 1 1/2 years ago with his grandmother's help, said he will use his winnings to take his four workers to Cancun, Mexico, next Christmas. This year, they are going to New Orleans for their Christmas bonus with money the store received from a winning Cash 5 ticket in August.
Store clerk Diane Fleeger, 45, of New Castle, said yesterday was hectic. Customers could barely slip in the door past nearly a dozen television crews and reporters from as far away as Youngstown, Ohio.
"It's nerve-wracking not knowing who won. I hope that it's someone from New Castle -- someone that needs it," Fleeger said. "(DeMatteo's) mother came to my house before 7 a.m. and told me I had to call Russell immediately and wouldn't tell me why. I thought something bad happened."
Local customers who frequent the store congratulated DeMatteo on his new fame. Everybody wanted to know who won.
"I buy Powerball tickets all the time here," said Donna Nocera, 48, of New Castle. "I heard this morning that they sold the ticket here, but I knew it wasn't me."
The prize must be claimed at state Lottery headquarters in Middletown, Dauphin County.
Three winning Powerball tickets have been sold in Pennsylvania during the last seven months. Kristine and Steve White, of Skillman, N.J., on May 8 won a $213.2 million jackpot. They opted for $110.2 million in cash. Jim and Tom Hare, of the Philadelphia area, won $26.9 million in a May 29 drawing.
Scott and Marian Calligan, of Cranberry, won $73.6 million in cash in a July 9, 2003, Powerball drawing. They split a record $261.3 million jackpot with a Missouri couple.