Michael E. Wittkowski, 28, a printer for a Chicago check-printing firm who joined his family in buying $35 worth of tickets, stepped forward today to claim $40 million, which officials said is the world's largest lottery prize awarded to a single winner.
Wittkowski said he "jumped up and screamed" when he realized he had won the Illinois State Lottery's Lotto game, which will bring him $2 million a year for the next two decades.
Officials said he should receive his first check for $1.55 million, minus 22.5 percent for federal and state taxes, in six or seven weeks.
He said he would share his windfall with his father Frank, an appliance company foreman for 35 years; brother Dan, 30, and sister Eileen, 23, who together spent about $35 on Lotto tickets last week, compared with their usual $10 purchase. His mother is dead. Wittkowski said he bought one ticket himself.
"I'm going to pay off a few bills," he said. "Beyond that, it's a family project. We're that close. We're a family. My life style will probably not change. I've got a beautiful life with a family and a future fiancee."
Joining Wittkowski at the podium was his girlfriend, Francine Pappas, 22, of Chicago. He said that the two plan to marry as soon as Pappas sets the date and that one of his first purchases will be an engagement ring.
"I was going to marry him before all this," Pappas said, smiling.
Wittkowski said he chose the winning numbers -- 2-3-10-26-30-43 -- at random. His choice came amid a week of frenzied ticket-buying by people from as far away as New Jersey and California.
He told a news conference that he plans to take Tuesday off and return Wednesday to his printing job, at which he earns between $20,000 and $25,000 a year.
"It's beyond me" to visualize the $40 million jackpot, he said. "It hasn't sunk in yet."
The family watched the drawing on television at home Saturday evening. Wittkowski said that, just before the drawing, he wrote his numbers on a piece of paper, along with the words "these are my $40 million numbers."
He said he spends about $10 or $15 each week for lottery tickets, always playing the same numbers.
Another winner in Saturday's drawing was Donald Pollak, owner of Blatt's Drug Store on Chicago's Northwest Side.
Pollak, who sold the winning ticket, will receive $400,000, a commission of 1 percent of the winnings.
"I just never thought that this would happen to one of my customers," said Pollak, who added that he would buy an annuity with his commission.
A record 31.7 million tickets were bought last week by players taking a chance at riches unmatched by any previous U.S. lottery.
The state's lottery computer system spent the weekend scanning the entries before confirming that a winning combination was played.
At the peak of sales activity at 9 a.m. Saturday, the state's 2,300 Lotto agents sold tickets at a rate of 348 transactions per second, and the day's total take was $8 million, officials said.
For three consecutive weeks, no one had won the Lotto grand prize, so unclaimed prize money was put back into the jackpot each week.
The second biggest North American lottery prize was $24.6 million, shared by eight persons in the Ohio Lotto Aug. 4.
The previous largest single winner was Venero Pagano of the Bronx, who won $20 million in the New York state lottery in July.
Spain's Christmas lottery, regarded as the world's richest, offers $71.8 million, but the prize is divided among scores of winners.