Jumping, laughing, hugging and playfully punching each other, the guys from the sub-assembly department found themselves in the World Trade Center today, claiming part of New York's $41 million lottery jackpot.
Twenty-one men, hailing from Poland and Paraguay, China and Czechoslovakia, Italy and Germany, had pooled their lottery tickets at Hantscho Inc., a printing-press assembly plant in Mount Vernon, just outside New York City.
Celso Manuel Garcete, a Paraguayan who became an American citizen five years ago, held the ticket with the winning combination: 14-17-22-23-30-47. He will split his winnings with 20 coworkers, all of whom had signed an informal agreement to do so when they bought their $1 tickets.
"I feel very, very happy," Garcete, 45, said in broken English as he crowded into an elevator descending from the 65th floor of the Trade Center. He said he learned that he had won when he arrived at work this morning shortly after 7.
"I'm excited. I can't believe it," he said, grinning.
Two other winning tickets were purchased, one in Brooklyn and the other in Albany, state Lotto director John D. Quinn said. The Brooklyn winner is to come forward at a news conference Friday. The owner of the Albany ticket is unknown.
A Bronx man claimed to have a winning ticket, which might have been purchased in Albany, Quinn said, but he had not appeared at Lotto headquarters to claim his prize money as of tonight.
Each winning ticket holder will receive $13,666,667 in annual installments of about $650,000 over 20 years. Quinn said Garcete and his coworkers will each receive about $24,900 a year, after taxes, for 20 years.
Besides the jackpot winners, 578 bettors picked five of the six winning numbers, winning $2,611.50 each. Third prizes of $79.50 went to 48,052 people who picked four correct numbers. Fourth prizes of $23 go to 65,037 bettors who picked three right numbers plus a supplementary number.
A record 37 million tickets were sold for the lottery game, which accumulated the largest jackpot reached in North America after seven successive draws failed to produce a winner.
Garcete's wife, Marta, in an interview from the family's three-room apartment in Queens, said her husband, son of small farmers, immigrated from Paraguay 12 years ago. They have a 4-year-old daughter.
Marta Garcia said she works as a cleaning woman four days a week for families on Park Avenue and Manhattan's Upper East Side, earning about $60 a day. Celso Garcete makes about $25,000 a year, she said.
"We really work very hard," she said in halting English. "But we have to give thanks to America. This is a beautiful country. We have a normal life."
She said she that with their winnings she would like to move out of their $320-a-month apartment and to visit her family in Paraguay. "I'd like to stay a few months. That way I can relax," she said.
One of the winners from the assembly plant is Jaroslaw Siwy, 41, a Polish immigrant who worked in the Gdansk shipyards and moved to Yonkers with his family three years ago.
"My mother is so happy, she still can't believe it," said Anna Siwy, 13, translating over the telephone for her mother, Helina.
"Maybe we'll bring my grandparents here now with the money," Anna said. "What do I want? I don't know, maybe some clothes. I'd love a lot of clothes."
Anna said that her father was involved "a little" in the Polish labor union Solidarity and that "my grandmother lives a block away from Lech Walesa," its leader.
Another Polish-born worker, John Pelczar of Yonkers, seemed to take his winnings in stride. "I feel very good," he said, as he squeezed into the World Trade Center elevator. "I'm going to pay the rest of the mortgage and pay for my daughters to go to college."
Willie Lao of Yonkers, who immigrated here from China 20 years ago, merely grinned and said, "I'm too tired to decide right now" what to do with the money.
All of the men expect to be back at work tomorrow, said Pantaleo DeBiase, 42, who emigrated from Italy in 1965. Toasting his winnings with champagne and surrounded by his wife, three children and various in-laws at his small house in Yonkers, DeBiase said he'll keep on working.
"It's not much money for a family of five," he said. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Virat Lao of YOnkers displays winning ticket that will bring him and 20 coworkers about $24,000 a year each for 20 years; Celso Garcete, who held the lucky combination, is hoisted by fellow winners. AP Photos