Three public school employees nab share of record jackpot
Includes video report
By Todd Northrop
The Maryland Mega Millions lottery winners are three Maryland public school employees, who split the world's biggest lottery jackpot with two other winners from Kansas and Illinois.
The trio claimed their share of the jackpot Monday at Maryland Lottery headquarters.
Maryland laws allow lottery winners to remain anonymous when collecting their prize, and the winners chose that option in this case.
Maryland Lottery Director Stephen Martino said the employees will each receive $34.997 million after taxes. They had purchased a total of 60 tickets at three different locations throughout the state, or a total investment of $20 per person.
"It is the first time that the three friends have pooled their money together," Martino said.
The three winners are a woman in her 20s, another in her 50s, and a man in his 40s. One employee is an elementary school teacher, another is a special education instructor and the third works in an administrative role. Two have other part-time jobs.
The youngest of the group held onto the tickets and checked them immediately following the drawing. "I had all 60 tickets spread across my floor," she said. "Once I realized one was a winner, I called my two friends right away."
"That evening, I forgot about the drawing and went to sleep," said one winner. "It was around 11:30 p.m., and my phone just kept ringing and ringing. I finally decided to answer it, thinking something was wrong." Once she picked up, the two other winners were on the phone and said, "Get dressed. We're coming over right now."
After discussing the win, the threesome came up with a plan. "We made copies of the ticket, and we each signed the copies," said one of the women. "At 1 a.m., I took the ticket and drove to my mother's house to put it in her safe. I didn't even take time to pack any clothes — I just drove."
When the group arrived at lottery headquarters Monday, Martino said one of the winners took a small white envelope of out of her purse that contained the winning Mega Millions ticket. The winners had made three copies of the ticket and each signed the copies, he said.
The actual ticket wasn't signed by all three winners until Monday at the lottery's conference room table, Martino said. The ticket was then handed over to lottery security and its authenticity was verified, he said.
The winners' future plans all include new homes. One also plans to take a backpacking trip through Europe, while another will pay for his daughter's college education, Martino said. A third winner will tour Italy's wine country, he said.
"Most importantly," one winner said, "we're going to be careful with how the money is spent. I watched coverage of the jackpot win on television all week, just so I could listen to the financial advice the professionals were offering."
All three have indicated they intend to remain employees within Maryland's public school system.
"They were modest, and humbled," said Martino. "These are precisely the people you would want to see win the lottery."
A total of three winning tickets were sold across the country for the $656 million March 30 Mega Millions drawing matching the winning numbers 2, 4, 23, 38, and 46, with Mega Ball number 23.
Speculation about a Maryland ticket reached fever pitch last week when a Maryland woman, Mirlande Wilson, 37, said she had the ticket, then alternately claimed she had lost it and had hidden it inside the McDonald's restaurant where she works. Her attorney, who admitted he couldn't back up her story, said she wanted to be left alone.
As many suspected, the story was a hoax. Lord knows why people do these things, but the woman fabricated the whole thing.
The anonymous winners bought the winning ticket at a 7-Eleven store in Milford Mill outside Baltimore. The retailer will receive a $100,000 agent bonus for selling the winning ticket.
Lottery officials increased the final jackpot to $656 million after tallying sales from the 44 lotteries that offer Mega Millions. The jackpot was the biggest in Mega Millions history and the three winners — one in Maryland, Illinois and Kansas — will each get more than $218 million before taxes.
Kansas' winner also decided to remain anonymous. (See Kansas Mega Millions winner claims jackpot anonymously, Lottery Post, Apr. 6, 2012.)
The Illinois winner has yet to come forward to claim the prize.
RAW VIDEO: Watch the Maryland Lottery press conference
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