Mega Millions jackpot winner in Florida remains a mystery
ABC News(PORT RICHEY, Fla.) — A cashier who works in the Florida 7-Eleven where the winning ticket for the $450 million Mega Millions prize was sold says has “no idea” who hit the jackpot.
Rachel Vanderwiede is one of two clerks at a 7-Eleven in Port Richey, Florida, who could have sold the Quick Pick ticket that won Friday night’s drawing, she told ABC News on Monday.
While Vanderwiede said “nobody knows” the identity of the new multi-millionaire, people who live in the small town, which is about 40 miles northwest of Tampa, are speculating on which of their approximately 3,000 neighbors could be a secret winner.
“It’s driving everyone nuts,” she said. “They wanna know why [he or she] hasn’t come forward.”
Vanderwiede said she hopes the winner is one of the neighborhood residents, estimating that about 80 percent of her customers at the 7-Eleven on Ridge Road are regulars.
“I really do hope it was one of our locals — someone that comes in on a regular basis and, hopefully, deserves it very much,” she added.
The winning numbers for the fourth-largest Mega Millions jackpot were drawn just before 11 p.m. Friday. They are 28,30,39,59,70 and a Mega Ball of 10.
The owner of the Port Richey 7-Eleven will receive $100,000 for selling the ticket.
Vanderwiede said she was “absolutely floored” when she found out the store sold the winning ticket and immediately congratulated her boss.
“This is gonna be great for the store, great for publicity, great for customer service,” she said.
The winner has 180 days after the drawing to claim the money but must file the claim within 60 days to obtain the one-time, lump-sum cash option, which amounts to $281.2 million.
Florida lottery officials anticipate that it’ll be a few more days before the winner comes forward. Don Creley, district manager of the Florida Lottery, told ABC News Monday, adding that it’s “quite unusual” for a winner to claim the prize within a day or two.
Creley advised the winner to “make sure they have all their ducks in a row” before filing the claim, which includes signing the back of the ticket, securing the ticket and seeking professional legal and accounting advice.
The winner will then travel to Tallahassee to file the claim at the state capital’s district office, Creley said. The process will take about three hours and will include setting up a wire transfer or payment schedule, he said.
“Basically, people get the money within 24 hours” of filing the claim, Creley said. After the winner comes forward, Florida lottery officials will then release their name, age and city of residence, he added.
The Mega Millions win will have a “tremendous impact” on the Port Richey community, which has never sold a jackpot that big, Creley said. The news was the “talk of the town” over the weekend, he added.
“It’s crazy huge,” Vanderwiede said. “No one has ever won like that around here.”
A total of $18.1 million was generated for education in the state of Florida from the $450 million jackpot, Creley said. Since the Florida Lottery was founded, it was given more than $32 billion to education in the state, allowing 775,000 students to attend college through the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program, he said.
Two people won large lottery prizes over the weekend, with both the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots worth more than $1 billion combined. On Saturday, a ticket-holder in New Hampshire won the $560 million Powerball jackpot, but that winner has not yet come forward, either, according to New Hampshire lottery officials.
“This is a life-changing sum of money,” Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery, told ABC News, advising the Powerful winner to “take their time and seek advice” before claiming their prize.
“We’ll hold onto the money for an entire year, as that’s how long our winner may take to claim this prize in New Hampshire,” he said. “But hope we don’t have to wait that long to meet you, issue a check and offer our congratulations!”
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