The New Jersey Lottery today announced the Lopes family of Union County as the New Jersey winners of the $126 million jackpot from the MEGA MILLIONS drawing held on July 22, 2008. Members of the Lopes family came forward today at a special Lottery holiday promotion to stake their claim as the first New Jersey winners of Mega Millions this year.
"We're really excited to have the Lopes with us today to help us 'open' this bank and celebrate their win and our new games for the holidays," said William T. Jourdain, Acting Executive Director of the New Jersey Lottery. "When we were coming up with our new 'Wonderful Life' instant ticket and our "Jersey Jackpot" raffle, we knew we'd be making our players very happy this holiday season—and I think the Lopes family are living proof of that…even if their really big present came in July, rather than this month!"
"One of the greatest satisfactions the job of State Treasurer holds is moments like this," said State Treasurer R. David Rousseau, "There is no greater joy—at this time of year, or any other—than to bring about positive change in the lives of our fellow New Jerseyans. And that's not limited to the Lopes family that's here with us today—the revenues generated from Mega Millions and all of our State's instant ticket and Lottery games help thousands of students, veterans, and the disabled in all of our communities, every day of the year."
The Lopes family chose the cash option, which means they will receive $75,499,102 before the 25% federal withholding tax. Their winning ticket was purchased on Tuesday, July 22 at Seabra Supermarket, located at 73-83 Wilson Avenue in the City of Newark, Essex County. The tickets were a natural selection. The winning numbers were: 02, 16, 23, 29 and 32, and the Gold Mega Ball number was 46.
"We feel very, very lucky,'' said Clelia, who purchased the winning ticket, "I was just in the grocery store, making my purchases, like I always have, and on my way out, I bought some Mega Millions tickets—like I always have. It's still amazing to me what has happened because I made sure to get my tickets that day."
Mr. and Mrs. Lopes are lifelong residents of New Jersey. Mrs. Lopes has been a homemaker, and Mr. Lopes has worked in construction for many years in their Union County community.
When they found out that their family possessed one of the winning tickets in this massive jackpot, the surprise was overwhelming. Said Mr. Lopes, "I checked the numbers twice, and then we checked them together—and then we checked them again. We couldn't believe our luck. It's been exciting and memorable—and it's still hard to believe we won."
Mr. Lopes also explained his delay in coming forward, saying, "It took us a long time just to let the fact that we won sink in. After that, we signed the ticket and put it into a safe place and started thinking about the future and our family's future. Then we took our time and got some legal and financial advice from professionals—Clelia and I are pretty good with money, but when you're talking $75 million…well, it doesn't hurt to have an expert opinion or two."
Acting Executive Director Jourdain added, "The Lopes family did everything right that you could ask of a winner in a big jackpot—they signed their ticket, put it in a safe place, and then sought professional financial and legal guidance to help them with any questions they may have had. Those are the steps we love to see our winners take before they come forward."
"In a lot of ways, we're still in disbelief," said Mario Lopes, "I know this means that a lot of worries about what will happen when we finally retire are pretty much gone, but past that, Clelia and I are still sorting all of this out—we have some ideas about what we want to do with this big win, but haven't made any big decisions yet."
Treasurer Rousseau concluded the day by commenting, "I congratulate the Lopes family on their good fortune, and I tend to agree with Director Jourdain—a 'Wonderful Life' has truly become theirs this holiday season!"
The next Mega Millions drawing will take place on Tuesday, December 9, 2008, with an estimated jackpot of $170 million. The largest, single-ticket win in the New Jersey Lottery's 36-year history, however, was Harold and Helen Lerner, who were the sole winners of a Mega Millions jackpot of $258 million on September 16, 2005.
Mega Millions member states include: New Jersey, California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
It's a Wonderful Life TM & © 2008 Melange Pictures LLC. All rights reserved. Images TM & © 2008, Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved. The name and likeness of Donna Reed used with permission. Licensed by Sovich Minch, LLP. All rights reserved. The name and likeness of James Stewart used with permission. Licensed by The Stewart Family, LLC. All rights reserved. TM, ® Copyright © 2008 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE © 1947 Republic Entertainment Inc. © "Republic Pictures" and "It's A Wonderful Life" are registered trademarks. All Rights Reserved.
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