SAN BERNARDINO – It took more than five months and a surveillance photo released by the California Lottery, nevertheless, Julie Cervera is one happy woman.
Her story is unlike any other in recent Lottery history, and it’s a story that ends with a $23 million SuperLotto Plus jackpot prize.
Usually when it takes a person more than five months to come forward and claim their prize it’s because they lost their ticket. Or, they just never come forward to claim their prize at all.
In Julie’s case, she was on the receiving end of a very interesting text message from her daughter yesterday morning.
Julie’s daughter, Charliena, sent her a picture of the exact photo the Lottery released on Tuesday – the surveillance video photo that shows Charliena buying what turned out to be the SuperLotto Plus ticket that won the $23 million jackpot on the evening of May 30.
When Julie saw the photo she immediately thought the worst – for some reason, in her mind, those photos are always associated with people that just committed a crime. In this case, however, it was a photo of her daughter about to buy the jackpot-winning ticket for her mom.
Now here’s where the story gets interesting – Charliena gave the ticket to her mom and Julie then stashed the ticket in the new used car she had just purchased. Excited about the car, Julie rolled off to show some friends and completely forgot about the ticket.
So when Charliena called to tell her the good news, she immediately went out to her car and found the ticket right where she left it more than five months ago.
“When she called me, my first thought was ‘please don’t be playing a prank on your mom,’” said Julie in describing the moment her daughter called her after sending the photo. “I didn’t know what to feel or do.”
She added that after her daughter sent her a photo of the newspaper account of the win, she put on her “99 Cent Store glasses” and checked the photo. She then realized that she was a big winner.
But like most Lottery winners, Julie had to double-check. So she went to a local retail location and had the clerk check her ticket. “He just said ‘wow,’” Julie said, “then he gave me a copy of the numbers from that night.” That sealed the deal for her.
When asked how she planned to spend her winnings, Julie said “I want to take my time and not buy anything crazy.”
She then added that she plans to give her daughter, Charliena, a tidy sum, and help out other members of her immediate family.
Julie adopted two special needs kids, and also wants to make sure that the three kids left behind when her son was killed in an accident are well taken care of.
Herself a widow, Julie has had to take on a lot, and this money couldn’t have come at a better time. “I think I have $1 in my purse right now and my checking account is overdrawn,” she said before adding that she might indulge a little and take a trip to Disneyland.
Julie really did claim her prize just in the nick of time.
At the close of business on November 26, had she not come forward to claim her prize, the unclaimed funds would have been transferred to California schools, and her winning ticket would have officially expired. The winning ticket was purchased at Michael’s Market & Liquor, which is located at 37935 47th Street East in Palmdale. The ticket matched all six numbers – 14, 7, 26, 31, 23 and Mega 5.
Michael’s Market & Liquor will receive a bonus of one half percent, or $115,000, for selling the winning ticket. Jackpot winners have 180 days from the date of the draw to claim the jackpot prize. The estimated cash option amount for this ticket is $17.8 million.
In an ongoing effort to connect Lottery customers with their winnings, the California Lottery has begun sending out photos of apparent winners of unclaimed prizes. In FY 2011/12, a total of more than $20.5 million in prizes went unclaimed. So far, in the three months since the Lottery has enacted this policy for tickets worth more than $250,000, the Lottery has released two photos, and both times the rightful winners have come forward to claim within a matter of days. The previous ticket was a $52 million MEGA Millions® jackpot ticket that was sold in Fremont in August.
(Information via press released from the California Lottery.)