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Ex-con held onto his lotto millions and started new life

After the Big WinAfter the Big Win: Ex-con held onto his lotto millions and started new life
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HUDSONVILLE, Michigan — While having a few drinks at a Hamilton Street bar, Aristeo Robelin saw a familiar face.

It was one of the police officers who helped put him in federal prison on drug smuggling and weapons charges.

The cop congratulated Robelin on his new life as a millionaire and bought him a beer.

Robelin, 40, took the meeting as an omen and stopped spending so much time in Hamilton Street bars.

Three years after winning $3.7 million in the Mega Millions lottery, the father of two and ex-con has left Saginaw and his past behind.

He lives in Hudsonville, a town of 7,000 that locals call "Michigan's Salad Bowl" for the carrots, celery and other vegetables grown in the region.

Robelin says the aroma of onions is strong near his wooded, 4.5-acre property during harvest time. He has lived alone since his children's mother took his eldest son and her children and moved back to Saginaw. The couple since has had a second child.

"It's pretty quiet out here, but it's different," Robelin says. "I don't mess with too many people."

With most of his winnings reserved for his children, Robelin says he lives on $80,000 per year.

The number is significant: That's the amount officers found when they raided the homes and vehicles of Robelin and another man in 1999.

Authorities claimed he and a partner led a syndicate that smuggled cocaine into Michigan. He faced various other drug and weapons charges throughout his youth and adult life.

More than the millions, the birth of his first son turned him away from street life and selling drugs, Robelin says.

"I'll never touch that again," he says. "I don't have to."

The changed perspective paid off.

In late 2005, Robelin asked co-worker Keith Bryce to pick up Mega Millions tickets because he didn't want to leave the house with then 4-month-old Aristeo Jr. on a cold, blustery night.

He had less than a 1-in-175 million chance of getting the same five digits and Mega ball number randomly picked for Bryce. Copies of the check and the winning Mega Millions ticket are on file in his home office.

"It's still unbelievable," he says.

When the clerk behind the counter at the 7-Eleven in Frankenmuth told Robelin that someone in Saginaw hit the Mega Millions jackpot the night before, he exchanged looks with Bryce.

The two were on lunch break from their job installing windows when the woman told them about the winning ticket sold at the South Michigan Express Stop.

"Teo," Bryce said, "that's where I bought the tickets at."

The orange-and-white Mega Millions tickets were at Robelin's home on the kitchen counter, next to the salt and pepper shakers and a loaf of bread.

The night before, Robelin asked Bryce to pick up the bread, a half-gallon of milk, a dozen eggs and $5 in Mega Millions easy pick numbers.

Bryce bought $5 worth for himself, too. Not wanting to choose between the two slips, Bryce and Robelin agreed to split the jackpot if they won.

As news of their win spread, people flooded Bryce with requests for money.

It was different for Robelin.

News of his criminal past made people leery to ask for money, he says.

Soon after he picked up his check from the state lottery office in Lansing, Robelin quit his job installing windows. He avoided the spending sprees and extravagant gifts for family and friends that befall many lottery winners and estimates he has more than $2 million remaining.

"I know the value of a dollar," Robelin says. "It's not like I worked hard for it, but it's mine."

Now he spends free time watching football on his projection-screen television, playing pool and doting on his sons, 3-year-old Aristeo Jr. and 8-month-old Vito — when he has the chance.

The boys live in Saginaw with their mother. Judges in Ottawa and Saginaw counties have granted her personal protection orders against Robelin since March 2007, court records indicate.

Times News Service could not reach her for comment.

Robelin stops in Saginaw to visit his mother and scout for more investment properties, but hasn't talked to Keith in two months.

Still, the numbers on the third row of a little slip of paper — 07, 08, 47, 51, 52, and 05 — linked the two forever.

The friends do share one tradition: They've played the Mega Millions each Tuesday and Friday since winning the jackpot.

"Lightning," Robelin says, "strikes twice sometimes."

Aristeo R. Robelin -- here with his 3-year-old son, Aristeo
Aristeo R. Robelin — here with his 3-year-old son, Aristeo "Little Thayo" Robelin II — won $3.7 million in the Mega Millions lottery three years ago and left his past behind.

Bay City Times

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21 comments. Last comment 8 years ago by grengrad.
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DC81's avatar - batman39
MI
United States
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August 31, 2007
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Posted: December 10, 2008, 8:32 pm - IP Logged

Good for him for starting a new life... Curious about that protection order though... But as to why someone would move to Saginaw (specifically in or around city) I have no idea, family or not.

You can't predict random.

    konane's avatar - wallace
    Atlanta, GA
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    March 13, 2003
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    Posted: December 10, 2008, 8:54 pm - IP Logged

    Awww what a nice ending.  Continued good luck to him and his children!

    Good luck to everyone!

      JackpotWanna's avatar - squiz

      United States
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      March 23, 2004
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      Posted: December 10, 2008, 9:55 pm - IP Logged

      WTG!  Second chance in life!!!!

        dphillips's avatar - littleuns
        Albuquerque, New Mexico
        United States
        Member #5128
        June 18, 2004
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        Posted: December 10, 2008, 10:08 pm - IP Logged

        Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus -- some people have all the luck!  Congratulations to the winner and may he choose his opportunities wisely.

        See Ya!-- Bye, bye!  When you win, may you glow as brightly as theSun Smiley

          autoprt's avatar - DiscoBallGlowing

          United States
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          May 14, 2006
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          Posted: December 11, 2008, 1:09 am - IP Logged

          this is a great story, thanks for sharing.

          i am so glad he was smart with the money. good for him and his family.

            Avatar
            new jersey
            United States
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            April 8, 2007
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            Posted: December 11, 2008, 8:57 am - IP Logged

            NoelSEE WHY CAN I WIN LORD KNOWS I HAVE BEEN PLAYING FOR YEARS I HAVE BEEN GOING TO THE STORS WHERE THE LOTTERY COME OUT GET YOU TO BUY 20.00 DOLLAR TICKETS OH WELL MAYBE ONE DAY Ill GET IT  LUCKY MAN YOU ARE WINNING ALL THAT MONEY

            Lurkingvic

              Avatar
              Kennesaw, GA
              United States
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              June 18, 2008
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              Posted: December 11, 2008, 12:43 pm - IP Logged

              i like how he kept it simple and focused on the more important things in his life

                Tenaj's avatar - michellea
                Charlotte NC
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                June 18, 2005
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                Posted: December 11, 2008, 12:56 pm - IP Logged

                "News of his criminal past made people leery to ask for money, he says."

                That part cracked me up.

                It's good to hear success stories like this with lottery winners.  Congratulations to him.

                takeemtothebank

                  ThatScaryChick's avatar - x1MqPuM
                  Idaho
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                  Member #56506
                  November 21, 2007
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                  Posted: December 11, 2008, 1:09 pm - IP Logged

                  "News of his criminal past made people leery to ask for money, he says."

                  That part cracked me up.

                  It's good to hear success stories like this with lottery winners.  Congratulations to him.

                  I agree. This is a wonderful story. I am glad he was able to turn his life around and is now leading a life that is crime-free.

                  "No one remembers the person who almost climbed the mountain, only the person who eventually gets to the top."

                    Avatar
                    New Member
                    college park ga.
                    United States
                    Member #68037
                    December 11, 2008
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                    Posted: December 11, 2008, 1:17 pm - IP Logged

                    what a very nice xmas picture. what is the most popular cash three number everyone is exspecting too fall  Partygwen

                      RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                      mid-Ohio
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                      Posted: December 11, 2008, 1:19 pm - IP Logged

                      "News of his criminal past made people leery to ask for money, he says."

                      That part cracked me up.

                      It's good to hear success stories like this with lottery winners.  Congratulations to him.

                      "News of his criminal past made people leery to ask for money, he says."

                      Maybe people figured he would expect to be paid back or he would go criminal on them.  People who ask lottery winners for money aren't asking for a loan but a gift.  Even when friends and relatives ask for money, they are really asking for a gift not a loan, that's the reason I don't accept requests for money from anyone.

                       * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
                         
                                   Evil Looking       

                        RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                        mid-Ohio
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                        Posted: December 11, 2008, 4:29 pm - IP Logged

                        It was one of the police officers who helped put him in federal prison on drug smuggling and weapons charges.

                        The cop congratulated Robelin on his new life as a millionaire and bought him a beer.

                        Robelin, 40, took the meeting as an omen and stopped spending so much time in Hamilton Street bars.

                        I think if I had ever won a lottery jackpot and walked into a bar and one of the regulars recognized me as a millionaire, I wouldn't go back either.  Patrons might expect me to "set'em up for everybody" every time I came in. 

                        Jack Whittaker found out the hard way that a lottery winner shouldn't hang out at a bar where everybody knows his business.

                         * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
                           
                                     Evil Looking       

                          time*treat's avatar - radar

                          United States
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                          Posted: December 11, 2008, 11:50 pm - IP Logged

                          That's the thing. You may not want the money to change the things you enjoyed doing and the places you enjoyed going, but it changes the behavior of the people who "knew you when..." (and even some of those who didn't know you). In many ways, you have to change too.

                          In neo-conned Amerika, bank robs you.
                          Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be the name of a convenience store, not a govnoment agency.

                            justxploring's avatar - villiarna
                            Wandering Aimlessly
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                            Posted: December 12, 2008, 12:16 am - IP Logged

                            I agree. This is a wonderful story. I am glad he was able to turn his life around and is now leading a life that is crime-free.

                            Huh?  I don't think this is such a heart-warming story.   There is nothing here that tells me this man turned his life around, except that he doesn't have to work any more because he won a lot of money. He didn't give up crime because he had an epiphany.  He got caught and went to prison.   In the article there is not one word that shows remorse for his past criminal activity.  I'd rather read about someone who spent his life helping people or working in a coal mine or an immigrant farm worker who picked fruit until his hands bled than a drug dealer whose only comment is

                            "I'll never touch that again," he says. "I don't have to."

                            He didn't have to in the first place.   He was a drug & weapons smuggler and everyone is writing "Aw, shucks.  How nice."   Maybe the reason people aren't asking him for money is because he was a very bad man. 

                            "...he and a partner led a syndicate that smuggled cocaine into Michigan. He faced various other drug and weapons charges throughout his youth and adult life."

                            Before anyone starts lecturing me about forgiveness, please go out and rent Scarface and see what drug smugglers do.