Four months after South Carolina's first Mega Millions jackpot win, the staggering $1.5 billion prize remains unclaimed.
That leaves two months until the six-month deadline to cash in the winning lottery ticket — and more time to speculate on what's taking the person so long to collect their winnings.
The winning ticket for the Oct. 23 drawing was sold at Simpsonville's KC Mart #7, and signs in the store window proclaim, "We sold a Mega Millions ticket worth... $1.5 billion."
Still, mystery surrounds the unclaimed jackpot as the convenience store and state officials wait for the winner to come forward.
"It wasn't me," Ray Black said with a laugh as he checked the numbers on a lottery ticket recently at the KC Mart #7.
Missing out on millions
The holder of the winning ticket could've accrued millions of dollars in interest over the past four months.
Hans Blake, principal owner of Intelligent Investing, did the math and calculated that if the winner had taken the $878 million offered as a lump-sum payment back in October and deposited it in a savings account with an interest rate of 2 percent, the money would have grown by about $5.8 million over the past four months.
And, Blake said, investing in the stock market at a 7-percent rate of return would have generated an additional $20 million or so over the past four months.
But, hey, what's a few million when you've got a $1.5 billion ticket?
With the jackpot continuing to go unclaimed, KC Mart #7 owners and the state of South Carolina also can't cash in.
The winner would pay about $60 million in state income taxes.
KC Mart #7 also can't claim their share of the winnings, around $50,000 before taxes, store manager Gee Patel said.
If the jackpot isn't claimed, the money goes back to the states that contributed to the jackpot. The amount is based on ticket sales. South Carolina's share would be about $11.2 million, South Carolina Education Lottery spokeswoman Holli Armstrong said.
Who is SC's Mega Millions winner?
Patel said that the lucky ticket has continued to bring in customers hoping that lottery lightning will strike twice.
They buy "everything" lottery-related, Patel said.
Many customers ask Patel if he knows who the winner is, but he is just as curious as they are. And he does have a theory as to why the ticket-holder has yet to claim the money.
"Maybe they are putting everything in order, you know," Patel said.
Kent Early was purchasing scratch-offs on a recent afternoon at KC Mart #7. He said he occasionally buys tickets for the weekly drawings.
"Every once in a while, on a night that I know they're fixing to draw, if I remember, and it's convenient, and I'm passing by, I'll stop by and pick a couple of numbers for either the Powerball or the Mega Millions," Early said.
Rumors about the winner have flown around town since the drawing. Early said he heard that "it was the guy in Fountain Inn or the guy in Gray Court or the guy here or there... but nobody knows."
Dale Parker said he also heard the rumors back in October, but the person's identity is still a mystery.
Parker doesn't play the lottery, but "I wish I'd played it that day," he said.