Beating 1-in-146 million odds to become South Dakota's latest multimillionaires, Pierre couple Lan "Bill" Nguyen and his wife, Tina, stepped forward Tuesday with the winning ticket for a nearly $117 million Powerball lottery jackpot.
The couple declined to participate in the usual news conference that large jackpot winners attend to answer reporters' questions and be photographed with a blown-up replica of their check.
Norm Lingle, executive director of the South Dakota Lottery, said the Nguyens came to the lottery office Tuesday morning with their attorney and spent about an hour chatting and getting the lucky ticket validated.
"I don't know whose hearts were beating faster, ours or theirs," Lingle said.
The jumbo jackpot was $116.8 million if taken in 29 annual payments or $51.6 million if chosen as a lump sum payment. The Nguyens chose the lump sum, which comes to $38,688,566 after withholding taxes for the Internal Revenue Service.
Lingle said the Multistate Lottery Association was asked to wire the money, which first goes to the state treasurer and then the Nguyens.
The couple operated Colorful Nails salon in Pierre, which they have since sold to an employee. They had moved to Pierre six years ago after operating a similar business in Watertown for about a year.
Bill Nguyen told lottery officials that he bought the lucky ticket May 17 with his son, Alexander, 6, while stopping for gas on their way to a fishing trip at Hayes Lake, west of Pierre. He learned the next morning that the winning ticket was sold in Pierre, but he was busy at the salon and didn't have time to check his ticket until later in the day.
Nguyen went to a convenience store to get the winning numbers, checked them against his ticket and learned they were a match.
"I didn't know what to do," he said. "I put the ticket in the car and locked the door."
When his wife got home from work, he took her fishing to break the news. They stopped at two convenience stores on the way to double check their numbers.
"I was sure I had the winning ticket, but I couldn't believe it," Bill Nguyen said. "It was like a dream."
Nguyen worked at the salon for two more days but couldn't sleep and finally gave up trying to work. Over the next few days, the couple repeatedly checked the ticket.
The couple gave no indication of how they would use the money, but planned to give some of it to local charities and organizations that had helped them over the years, Lingle said.
The Kum & Go store in Pierre sold the lucky ticket and gets a $50,000 bonus from the Lottery.
The winning ticket matched all six numbers in the multistate lottery game. Those numbers were 15, 17, 24, 26 and 35. The Powerball number was 38.
Lingle said Nguyen had good luck while fishing at Hayes Lake on May 17, but hasn't caught any fish since then.
"After he discovered he was the holder of the winning ticket, one of the things he did to pass the time and to kind of collect his thoughts was to go fishing again, and ever since he held that winning ticket he did not catch a fish," Lingle said.
"The ironic things is that, from all reports that I've heard in the Pierre area right now ... fishing is unbelievable and people are having lots of success."
The largest Powerball jackpot won in South Dakota in the past was $101 million, which was shared in February 2003 by 34 Watertown factory workers and a winner in Indiana. The Watertown group received $50.9 million in that drawing.