Updated: May 30, 2007, 7:59 pm
A Los Ojos, New Mexico, man stepped forward today to claim a $62.8 million Powerball jackpot one week after the New Mexico Lottery announced that the winning ticket from the May 23 drawing had been sold in New Mexico.
Felipe Piña purchased his ticket on Wednesday, May 23, at Giant Sundial #5 in Chama using a Quick Pick method. The numbers on his ticket — 03, 11, 24, 36, 38 and the Powerball 06 — matched the winning numbers drawn in the multi-state, lotto-style game played in 29 states including New Mexico, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The odds of winning the game's top prize are one in 146 million.
Piña postponed claiming his prize by one week, following the New Mexico Lottery's recommendation that the then-unidentified player seek financial and legal counsel before turning in the ticket for the Lottery's validation.
Piña, the owner of an auto repair shop in Chama, has been a regular Powerball player since the game first came to New Mexico in October 1996. "I always knew I was going to win," said the big winner.
Piña bought his ticket Wednesday night, but didn't check his numbers until the following evening.
Alone in his car, Piña retrieved the ticket from the console's cup holder and checked the numbers printed in Thursday's newspaper. He read the numbers several times.
"Then I got out my reading glasses just to be sure," Piña said. "I started laughing."
At home, he set up his girlfriend Adelaine Aguilar to expect bad news. "Hey, babe, I have a problem," he recalled. Then the prize-winner came clean. "Do you believe in miracles because I just hit the lottery jackpot," he said.
Piña plans to buy classic cars that he can restore. A big fan of the Oakland Raiders football team, Piña said he might attend this season's Raider games. The rest of the jackpot will be invested.
"We've been waiting a week to meet this player," said Lottery CEO Tom Romero, adding that a buzz would go through Lottery headquarters every time someone walked into the claims center or pulled on the claims center's doors before they opened at 8:30 a.m. "Every day, we wondered where the ticket holder might be and when he or she would choose to step into the limelight to share their exciting story."
Piña becomes the state's fourth Powerball jackpot winner. The state's first Powerball jackpot was claimed on Nov. 30, 2000 by a group of 14 Sandia National Laboratory employees who shared $131 million. On Feb. 22, 2002, Isabell Delgado of Las Cruces won a Powerball jackpot of $32 million. John San Cartier, an airman from Kirtland Air Force base, collected a $93.4 million Powerball jackpot on Aug. 19, 2005.
Giant Sundial #5 has previously sold winning high-tier tickets ranging from $1,000 Scratcher up to a $50,000 Roadrunner Cash winning ticket sold last December. They are also eligible for a $50,000 bonus for selling the winning $62.8 million ticket.
All net revenues from the sale of Lottery games benefit the Legislative Lottery Scholarship program, which provides tuition assistance for New Mexico residents attending the state's public colleges and universities.
Since its inception in 1996, the Lottery has raised more than $315 million for public education in New Mexico. More than 43,000 students have received Legislative Lottery Scholarships in the last decade. More than 15,000 of those students have graduated from college.
As of the Spring 2006 semester, more than 1,250 high school graduates from Rio Arriba County have received almost $4 million in Legislative Lottery Scholarships to attend college. More than 470 of those students have graduated from college.