Everybody's got a story about the one that got away, but Walid Aboroomi's tale of loss and deprivation can bring tears to anyone who favors simple games of chance and the specter of quick riches.
Aboroomi has owned the BP service station and convenience store on Cross Creek Boulevard for six months, and on the night of May 28, he felt lucky. He noticed the time: 7:15 p.m.; a glimpse of a license plate in the parking lot, 715. And most importantly, his birthday: July 15.
"Everything was 715," he said. "It was blowing my brain."
Something about this seemed eerily familiar, too.
In 2007, Aboroomi won a Pick 3 lottery in Virginia for $100,000 after buying nearly 200 tickets with 715 as the winning number.
He felt the same sort of luck on May 28, he said.
The time was right, he said, to make a play.
"At times," said the 50-year-old Israeli immigrant who has been in the United States for 27 years, "you just feel lucky."
So when customers cleared out, he started printing out Cash 3 tickets with 715 as the number of choice.
He ended up buying 184 of them, at $1 each, stopping only when a customer came in.
The next day, another customer showed up and told him he thought Aboroomi's numbers had come up the night before. The shopkeeper checked, and 715 indeed had been drawn. In that order. With each ticket worth $500, that was a $92,000 windfall.
Then, his luck ran out.
He looked for the tickets. They were nowhere to be found.
He looked in the garbage. Not there. Checked under a loose countertop. Not there. Under carpets. Not there. In the bathroom. Not there. He asked his wife and children. Nope.
Aboroomi went to the big trash container outside the store and dove in. Nothing.
He called his garbage hauler, saying he had lost a ring, and found out that all the trash from that location goes to an incinerator.
"I searched every place," he said. "Finally, I gave up. I was crying, crying like a baby."
He punched out a ticket from the lottery machine in his store showing 184 tickets were printed out from that machine on that date. He said the store's surveillance system probably shows him making the purchases, but that doesn't go far with state lottery officials.
He called the Florida Lottery and was told that to make a claim, he must have the tickets, like 2,827 other people who picked 715 and claimed a prize from that drawing. The payout for that drawing totaled $449,685, state lottery officials said.
Aboroomi doesn't appear to be bitter. He can't complain. He's been a frequent lottery player and a big winner.
He was featured in a 2007 Washington Post article that said after Aboroomi won a $100,000 Pick 3 prize, he spent $17,000 on a new diamond ring for his fiancee and made donations to local churches and homeless shelters. Less than a year earlier, he won $71,000 after buying 162 Pick 3 tickets with, that's right, the 715 number.
The story said Aboroomi always plays his birthday numbers and checks the lottery websites to see when they last came in. If it's been awhile, he buys a ton of tickets.
That's not his only win. In 2005, he won $1 million playing the Virginia Million Dollar Madness scratch-off game, the story said, and he won $500,000 in a scratch-off jackpot in fall 2004.
Aboroomi said even with his lost tickets, he realizes how lucky he's been.
"Yeah," he said, "I'm not hungry."
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