Friday, January 2, 2004

Mega Millions winner still has not claimed $162M prize

The Associated Press

SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio - Ohio's first Mega Millions jackpot winner has another day to quietly celebrate before being able to claim the $162 million jackpot.

Regional offices of the Ohio Lottery Commission - the only places to claim prizes of more than $5,000 - were closed Thursday for the holiday.

No one has yet claimed the winning ticket sold at a convenience store in this Cleveland suburb, Ohio Lottery spokeswoman Mardele Cohen said. It was the only ticket in the 11-state jackpot that matched all five numbers and the Mega Ball number Tuesday.

Waiting to claim the prize until after the new year allows more time to plan for tax payments, since the prize won't be counted as 2003 earnings, Cohen said. Ohio lottery winners have 180 days to turn in winning tickets.

The lottery has nine regional offices, including one in Cleveland, for redeeming the ticket. The winner may choose between an immediate cash payout of $95 million before taxes or $162 million over 26 years, Cohen said. The lump-sum payment would be about $67.9 million after taxes, she said.

Jagdish Shah, co-owner of Quick Shop Food Mart, said early Thursday that he got a few new customers after selling the winning ticket.

The Mega Millions winner selected the numbers rather than having the lottery computer chose them, Cohen said. The odds of winning the top prize are one in 134 million.

The winning numbers were: 12, 18, 21, 32 and 46. The Mega Ball number was 49.

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