Incognito winner sports black marker mustache and shades
What do you do when you've been unemployed for months and your tax refund comes through on April Fools' Day? Michael Perez, 51, of St. Albans decided to take a chance and put $5 on the New York Lottery.
"I felt guilty spending the money, I needed it for other things," he said. He no longer feels guilty; the ticket netted him $14 million.
Perez was joined at the Queens Botanical Garden on Tuesday by representatives of the New York Lottery, who presented him with his check.
Other winners present were Yoon Kim, who stood in for his father, Chong Bang Kim, 52, of Elmhurst, who won $1 million; and Ruben Martinez of the Bronx, who spent $2 on a Win $2,000 A Week For Life instant ticket, and will receive a minimum of $2 million, paid to him after taxes. He'll receive $16, 771 per quarter.
Perez, a former warehouse supervisor for Southern Wine and Spirits in Syosset, L.I. was let go from his job following a miscommunication between himself and his boss.
Since then he had held a temporary job, but had been looking for work.
Sporting dark shades, a painted-on goatee, an NYPD cap pulled down over his eyes, a discreet braid, bright yellow pants, and a cream jacket, Perez explained that his first priority was to clear his debts. He owes about $11, 000, mostly on credit cards. "It doesn't seem like much now, but before it was overwhelming."
His plans for the future begin with a trip to Disney World in Orlando with his wife of 11 years, (Jetaun) Tracy. He's never been there before, but plans to stay long enough to go on every ride, meet everybody and feel ready to come back and decide how to spend the money.
Perez and Tracy, who works as a receptionist at the AIDS Center of Queens County, have been living in his mother's basement, and he has had to rely on financial help from his mother, his mother-in-law and his wife.
He intends to figure out what his family members need. His mother had put him on a budget of $40 a week, which was not enough for gas, before he won the lottery. "Her bank account is low now. I'm going to help out," he said.
Although it had been widely reported that he and Tracy would be buying their dream house and moving out of the basement, Perez said that he would be taking care of his mother and his mother-in-law, first. "One hand washes the other," he said. referring to all their help and support since he lost his job.
He and Tracy have no children, but he has a 30-year-old son by his childhood sweetheart who lives in Albany.
Perez has friends, family, a lawyer and a CPA helping him out with the money, but doesn't plan to make any important decision any time soon.
When asked to remove his sunglasses for a photo Perez said, "That's not going to happen."
The Queens Botanical Garden had provided a large slab cake for the ceremony and Perez was anxious for the interviews to end so that he could enjoy his slice. "Mmm cheese cake," he said, "my favorite."
Later he posed for pictures with his oversized check. At first he held it over all but his eyes, then he peeked around the side of it, laughing and joking with the media.
Suddenly he became bewildered. "Where's my wife?" he asked and when told she was waiting for him to leave, he instantly ended the interview.
Perez said he was still broke, referring to the Lottery's practice of holding the ceremony before handing over the money. "It will be in his account in two to three days," Carolyn Hapeman, of the New York Lottery assured him.
He had opted to take a lump sum, which means that after taxes he will receive $5,052,675.
Yoon Kim, the son of Elmhurst winner, Chong Bang Kim, described his father as an average guy and said that he had jumped for joy when he discovered he and his wife, Chang Hee, had won $1 million.
Kim owns a Korean restaurant but didn't name it. He purchased his ticket on a routine visit to the grocery store and will receive the money in payments of $50,000 per year, $32,251 after taxes, for 20 years.
Perez purchased his Quick Pick ticket on April 1 at the Prince Supermarket on Linden Boulevard in St. Albans.
Thanks to JackpotWanna for the tip.