GENEVA – A Geneva man, who had kept nearly a dozen lottery tickets in a cookie jar, made a life-changing discovery when he brought them to a store to check out – one was a Lotto ticket from the Feb. 2 drawing, worth $4.85 million.
At his wife's urging, Richard Cerezo brought the tickets to a store and ran them under the lottery scanner. The first seven tickets were not winners, but the message on the eighth read, "file a claim," according to a news release sent by the Illinois Lottery.
"I thought I had probably won about $600," he said in the release.
Instead, he said he checked the number at www.illinoislottery.com and found he had won nearly $5 million, the release stated.
"I can’t believe I had $4.85 million in a cookie jar for over three months," Cerezo said. “I’m awestruck. This is unbelievable.”
On Wednesday, Illinois Lottery officials presented him with a commemorative check at the Aurora 7-Eleven where he bought his winning ticket.
Cerezo and his wife said they plan to pay bills, pay off their mortgage and share some of their winnings with their son and daughter, according to the release. They also plan to contribute to their church and favorite charities.
“It is very important to us that we help others with this money," he said.
Cerezo said he has been playing Lotto for several years, the release stated. The ticket that won the Lotto jackpot was a quick pick purchased at 7-Eleven, 2411 W. Sullivan Road in Aurora. The store received a bonus of $48,500 for selling a winning ticket. After required state and federal withholding, Cerezo will receive $3,395,000.
When asked whether he had advice for other lottery players, Cerezo said said, “play within your means, and when you buy a ticket believe that you can win. And check your old tickets.”