One of Maryland’s newest millionaires could be standing in front of your child’s classroom today.
Stephen Martino, director of the Maryland Lottery, said Tuesday that three of the state’s public educators will each take home a $35 million share of the record-breaking Mega Millions $656 million jackpot. The winners, who have chosen to remain anonymous, were a woman in her 20s, a man in his 40s, and a woman in her 50s.
“These are the kind of people you’d like to see win,” Martino said.
One is an elementary school teacher, Martino said. Another teaches special education and the third works in administrative support, he said. Each has worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. They are friends who called themselves “The Three Amigos” and know each other professionally, but they don’t work at the same schools.
Each chose to take the lump-sum cash payment — $105 million after taxes or about $35 million split three ways, which will be wired into their bank accounts within the next 10 business days, Martino said.
Two other jackpot-winning tickets were sold in Kansas and Illinois. The Kansas winner came forward Friday and also chose to remain anonymous. No one in Illinois has claimed the prize.
All three Maryland winners told lottery officials that they will continue to work. The two classroom teachers said they couldn’t imagine leaving their jobs, Martino said.
“They were so clearly committed to their kids,” he said. “When we asked them, ‘Are you going to continue to teach?’ They both said, ‘Yes, I can’t give up my kids.’”
The state of Maryland will receive $13.4 million in income taxes for the General Assembly to spend. One winner indicated that he or she wants the state to use it for public education.
The winners also discussed how they would spend some of the money, Martino said. One plans to go backpacking through Europe with her brother. Another wants to take a tour of Italy’s wine country. The third plans to help pay for his daughters’ college education, pay off his house and buy his sister a house.
One of the women mentioned to lottery officials that she had visited church recently and prayed silently for money to cover her bills. Martino said Tuesday, and perhaps it goes without saying, that those worries have been dispelled.
“They were modest. They were down-to-earth,” Martino said. “I think they were overwhelmed.”
The winners took the last 10 days to come forward, Martino said, because they were seeking legal and financial advice. All the while, the ticket had been secured in one of the winners’ mother’s safe.
The winners have consulted with money managers and investment bankers, Martino said. One of the winners told lottery officials: “We’re going to be careful with how the money is spent. I watched coverage of the jackpot win on television all week, just so I could listen to the financial advice the professionals were offering.”
When the group arrived at lottery headquarters Monday, Martino said one of the winners took a small white envelope out of her purse that contained the winning Mega Millions ticket. The winners had made three copies of the ticket and each signed the copies, he said.
The actual ticket wasn’t signed by all three winners until Monday at the lottery’s conference room table, Martino said. The ticket was then handed over to lottery security and its authenticity was verified, he said.
The three had pooled their money to buy 60 tickets, purchased in three locations, including the 7-Eleven on Liberty Road in Milford Mills where the winning ticket was bought at 7:15 p.m. March 30, within hours of drawing.
On the night of the drawing, the youngest of the winners had the tickets laid out on her floor as she watched the drawing and discovered the group had the winner.
“Once I realized one was the winner, I called my two friends right away,” she said in a statement provided by the lottery. A second winner was sleeping and had forgotten about the drawing.
“It was around 11:30 p.m., and my phone just kept ringing and ringing. I finally decided to answer it, thinking something was wrong,” that winner said in the statement. On the other line were the two winners who said, “Get dressed. We’re coming over right now.”
The numbers on the winning ticket were randomly selected. The winners joked with lottery officials that they were thinking about getting matching tattoos of the winning numbers.
“It’s so crazy that even celebrities are Tweeting about this,” one of the winners told lottery officials. “Even Britney Spears Tweeted a congratulations message to the winners.”
Martino said lottery officials have been captivated by the excitement surrounding the jackpot-winning ticket in the last week. Martino said the winners were amused by the spectacle surrounding a claim by McDonald’s worker Mirlande Wilson of Westport, who lottery officials confirmed was not one of three winners.
Wilson’s story generated international attention, sparked by her account to the New York Post that she hid the winning ticket in the McDonald’s on Liberty Road where she worked.
“We weren’t discounting that it could have been anyone,” Martino said. “We did think it was curious to initiate a claim for one of the largest jackpots in the history of the world through a New York newspaper, but everyone has their own way of doing things.”
What did the real winners think of Wilson, who made headlines for an entire week? “I think they were humored by it,” Martino said.
Wilson, who changed her story several times, could not be reached to comment. Last week, she called a press conference with her lawyer to tell the media to leave her alone.
Wilson was sued Monday in Baltimore City Circuit Court by Mandisa Mazibuko of Germantown in a lawsuit that also names the Maryland lottery as a defendant.
Martino said the lottery was served Monday.
Neither Wilson nor her co-workers listed in the lawsuit were the actual winners, Martino said. “I am not sure what cause of action or relief that group is seeking because the group were not winners of the jackpot,” he said.
Four $250,000 winning Mega Millions tickets from March 30 were also sold in Maryland. Two of tickets have not yet been claimed, lottery officials said. Those unclaimed tickets were purchased at a 7-Eleven on Beaver Dam Road in Timonium and Redner’s Warehouse Market on North Fountain Green Road in Bel Air.
Maryland’s Mega Millions Winners Come Forward
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012