Claims prize two weeks before expiration
Harold and Tina Ehrenberg hit the jackpot — literally — as they tidied up their Mandeville, Louisiana, home this week while preparing to host a Thanksgiving crowd. On a nightstand in their bedroom, Tina stumbled upon a few forgotten lottery tickets — and one was a winning ticket that entitled them to a $1.8 million jackpot.
But that's not even the craziest part. It turns out the pair claimed the prize just in the nick of time. Winnings for draw-style lottery games like this one must be claimed within 180 days of the drawing, Kimberly Chopin, director of communications for the Lousiana Lottery, said. The winning ticket belonged to a June 6, 2018, drawing but wasn't claimed until Nov. 19. That left a mere two weeks until the window would close and the Ehrenbergs would lose their prize forever.
"I checked the numbers three times," Tina said. Then she recruited Harold to log onto the lottery's website and check while she read aloud the Lotto numbers they'd picked — 3, 7, 30, 31, 35, and 38 — just to make sure it wasn't her imagination. Then it dawned on the couple that they might have waited too long — and panic set in.
"It didn't click until we were actually at the lottery office, filling out paperwork," Tina said, describing the feeling as being in a daze. Then someone opened a door, flashed a big smile and said to the couple, 'Come on back!' — "and that's when we realized we had a winning ticket!" Tina said.
The Ehrenbergs have received $1,274,313 in a lump sum after state and federal tax withholding from the ticket they casually bought one summer day at International Market in Metairie, La. The store won too: Its owner received a one-time selling bonus of $17,948.07 — which is one percent of the prize, according to Chopin.
Chopin said that officials at the Lousiana Lottery "had been watching this one for a while, since it was a big jackpot." She said that luckily, it's not very often that a winner waits until the eleventh hour to come forward — and they shouldn't. "Keep your tickets and check them after every drawing," she urges, reminding players they might be entitled to smaller prizes too. She says the timing varies by state, but most lottery associations allow enough time to contact a CPA and understand tax implications before officially claiming a prize.
The Ehrenbergs don't plan on spending their newfound bounty on any extravagances, though. In fact, they don't plan on spending it at all. "It's already in our retirement account," the couple confirmed.
Tina said that friends and family have been wishing them well and sending congratulations on the win, which comes just in time for holiday celebrations. It's safe to say these two have a lot to be thankful for this year.
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