Sunday November 4, 2012 : LOTTERY OFFICIALS' DILIGENCE BRINGS BIG WIN TO PENSIONER
Five month old ticket wins $23 million just in time
The diligence of California state lottery officials worked well for a 69-year-old financially battling pensioner this week, enabling her to claim a $23 million lottery win on a ticket due to expire on November 26.
In a story that has made headlines around the world, state officials went the extra mile in trying to find the big winner after five months had passed without the prize being claimed. They tracked down CCTV footage from the convenience store that sold the ticket, and published pictures of the ticket buyer widely in Californian media.
One of the winner's daughters saw the picture and alerted her mother, Julie Cervera, who realised the image was of another of her daughters, Charliena, who had bought the one dollar ticket for her.
Back in May, mother and daughter were driving home together when Charliena asked her mother to pull over at a convenience store so she could buy a bottle of water.
Cervera asked her daughter to buy her a lottery ticket whilst she was in the store, and a Super Lotto Plus ticket was purchased, which Cervera threw into the glove compartment of her car and forgot about. Until she saw the image of her daughter buying the ticket and realised that she was a multi-millionaire.
For Cervera, a widow who has been on disability benefit for 20 years and described herself as broke, the unexpected turn of fortune could not have come at a better time.
"I have maybe a dollar in my pocket, they just shut off my cable, my electric bill is $600 and my bank account is overdrawn," Cervera told reporters after coming forward to claim her prize.
State lottery officials said Cervera's jackpot marks only the second time they have been forced to release a store surveillance photo to track down a winner. A $52 million jackpot winner in Fremont was found in August by a similar public appeal by lottery officials.
Cervera opted to take the money in a single, lesser lump-sum payment, which lottery officials said will amount to nearly $18 million before taxes, rather than receiving the full jackpot parceled out in installments.
The big winner, who has adopted two boys aged 5 and 9 years old with special needs, said that she will share her good fortune with her children, including Charliena, and her grandchildren.
"My grandkids are all going to be taken care of, and my three daughters," she said. "I'm just so happy."
She said a significant amount would be put aside for the two adopted boys "….so that when I'm gone they'll be OK."
In the last fiscal year, more than $20.5 million in cash prizes went unclaimed California state lottery officials revealed.