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Posted at 08:44 AM ET, 04/10/2012

Mega Millions mystery solved: Three winners claim record-busting jackpot

Two Maryland teachers and a school office worker who pooled their money to buy lottery tickets won the record-breaking Mega Millions jackpot and will split the $105 million prize, lottery officials said Tuesday.

Stephen Martino, the state’s lottery director, said that the trio — one of whom is a frequent lottery player, one of whom is an occasional scratch player, and one who virtually never plays the lotto — each contributed $20 and bought 60 tickets from three different locations. All three have been working multiple jobs to make ends meet. They will split the after-taxes lump sum, receiving nearly $35 million per person. 

“They were modest. They were humbled by this stroke of luck. I think at times, they were a bit overwhelmed,” Martino said at a news conference Tuesday. He said the winners have chosen to remain anonymous.

Three winning tickets were sold nationally, with a jackpot of $656 million. The winning Maryland ticket was bought the day of the Friday drawing at a convenience store in Millford Mill, in Baltimore County.

 Martino said the first ticket was claimed in Kansas last week. The purchaser of the winning Illinois ticket has not yet come forward. 

Until Tuesday, the majority of the publicity surrounding the Mega Millions drawing had focused on Mirlande Wilson, the 37-year-old Maryland woman who claimed to be holding the winning ticket.

Wilson initially said that she had hidden the lucky ticket in the Baltimore area McDonald’s where she works, but last week said that she had misplaced the ticket. Her attorney said Monday that someone who contributed to the pool of money she used to buy lottery tickets had filed a lawsuit against her.

Martino said that one of the three actual Maryland winners held on to all 60 tickets and spread them out on her floor on the night of the drawing. 

“When she saw she had the winning number and collected herself from her state of disbelief,” she contacted one of the other winners and they called the third together. Martino said the last winner to be notified thought it was an early April Fool’s joke. 

The three winners congregated about 1 a.m. and by 4 a.m. were in touch with a financial adviser. In the week and a half that followed, they contacted lawyers and, on Monday, reached out to the lottery commission. 

Martino said that all three winners work in the Maryland public school system and hold additional jobs as well. One is an elementary school teacher, one is a special education teacher and the third provides administrative support, said Martino. One of the winners has a second full-time job, one has an additional part-time job and the third has two part-time jobs. 

Martino said that the winners don’t have firm plans for what they will do with their newfound fortunes, but all three want to invest their money and purchase homes. Short-term plans include a backpacking trip with one of their brothers, buying one of their sisters a house, and taking a wine-tasting trip in Italy. 

All three have indicated that they want to continue working in Maryland schools beyond this school year, Martino said. 

Martino acknowledged that everyone plays the lottery to win. “But if it can’t be you, these are precisely the people you want to see win.”

More on this story:

- Maryland woman, co-workers disagree on who bought ticket

- For lotteries, disputes are often part of the game

- Americans bemoan lottery losses as three tickets share $640 million jackpot

- Read more local headlines

By  |  08:44 AM ET, 04/10/2012

 
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