|Man Validates $338M Powerball Ticket|
|By ANTHONY CASTELLANO (@AntCastellano) and ALYSSA NEWCOMB (@AlyssaNewcomb)||Mar 25, 2013, 4:20 AM|
The single winner of a $338 million Powerball jackpot validated the winning ticket this afternoon where it was purchased: Eagle Liquor in Passaic, N.J., lottery officials said today.
"Apparently, the winner was listening to my advice during today's press conference regarding getting the ticket validated," said Carole Hedinger, executive director of the New Jersey Lottery, in a written news release. "I am looking forward to meeting the winner."
A man named Pedro Quezada, 44, showed up at the store today claiming that he was the winner, WABC-TV in New York reported.
However, as of this evening, lottery officials still had not confirmed the winner's name.
"We do not know the name of the person officially but we do know that the ticket is valid and it was validated," said Judy Drucker, a New Jersey Lottery spokeswoman, according to ABC News Radio. "It would have been nice to know [the name] but we heard that he took the claim form with him so assuming he's going to be filing it out at home."
Quezada told reporters in Spanish that he was "very happy" and that he intended to help his family, The Associated Press reported.
His neighbors on a short, dead-end block of apartments that abuts a highway told the AP that it was a tight-knit neighborhood.
"This is super for all of us on this block," Eladia Vazquez, has lived across the street from Quezada's building for the past 25 years, told the AP. "They deserve it because they are hardworking people."
At a news conference earlier today, a giant yellow check made out to "New Jersey Lottery Winner" took center stage.
"We are waiting for the winner to contact us, or the possible winners," Hedinger said. "Whoever they are, they should sign the back of that ticket and put it in a safe place."
She urged whoever has the winning ticket to "take their time" and "seek professional advice" before they come forward to claim the prize. If the jackpot is taken in a lump sum, the amount left after taxes would be a cool $151,920,000, Hedinger said.
New Jersey does not offer anonymity to lottery winners, Hedinger said, and their names and hometowns are part of the public record.
Sunil Sethi, 51, the owner of Eagle Liquor, was ecstatic his store sold the winning ticket.
"We always had a dream to sell this ticket. We did it. It's a dream come true," he said, promising to give the ticketholder "nice gifts and hugs" when they claim their prize.
Sethi called it his "most prosperous day in a long time" and said people were flocking to his store to buy more tickets and check their old ones.
For its part, Eagle Liquor will receive a $10,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket.
More than $41 million worth of tickets were sold for the drawing in New Jersey, which Hedinger said is a boon for the state.
The manager of Love's Travel Stops & Country Store in Bordentown, N.J., initially said he might have sold the winning ticket after he said he received a call from a happy truck driver who claimed to have matched all six numbers.
"Upon listening to his voice, he did sound happy, kind of like a relief like he wouldn't have to work as hard and nice to hear that for someone," store manager Isaiah DeVries told ABC News early this morning.
Hedinger said lottery officials had not spoken to anyone at the Bordentown store, but they are sure the ticket was sold in Passiac, in the northern part of the state.
"Now, somebody may have called the place in Bordentown and talked about claiming a ticket and perhaps somebody jumped to a conclusion," Hedinger said.
The winning numbers were 17, 29, 31, 52, 53 and Powerball 31.
The price of a Powerball ticket doubled in January 2012 from $1 a game to $2, which has accounted for the swelling jackpots.
"We redesigned the game and, with more money going into the game, the jackpot prize pool has doubled, so more people are playing because the jackpot is growing higher," Multi-State Lottery Association President Jim Haynes said.
Powerball is offered in 44 states and chances of striking it rich are one in 175,000,000, meaning a person is 25 times more likely to win an Academy Award.
But dreaming big is part of the Powerball fun, even for the more-than-80-million people whose tickets are now worthless.
"For $2, it's inexpensive entertainment and you can buy a part of the dream," Haynes said.
ABC News' Michael S. James, Joanna Suarez and Ashley Jennings contributed to this report.