-- A New York man who has been playing the lottery nearly every week for a decade without ever winning a prize ended his unlucky streak when he found a $2.9 million winning ticket in his truck’s center console.
Jerry Ritieni, a 47-year-old auto shop owner from Massapequa, was digging for a set of keys in his truck’s console on Aug. 23, when he found the misplaced ticket, one he had purchased over a month earlier, on July 19, he told ABC News today.
Ritieni stuck the ticket under his keyboard at work but got busy and did not check the ticket's numbers until one week later.
When he finally went on the New York State Lottery website five days later, Aug. 28, Ritieni saw that not only did he have the right numbers on his Quick Pick ticket, but they were matched in exactly the same order.
“I’m circling them and I'm getting towards the third number and I’m like, 'No way,'” Ritieni told ABC News. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Ritieni, a single dad, first told his 17-year-old son, who was there with him in person, and then called his 20-year-old daughter to tell her they were now millionaires.
“They didn’t believe me because I’m a joking dad,” Ritieni said.
Ritieni’s win, confirmed by a visit to the local lottery office that same day, is hard to believe because he has been purchasing the same lottery tickets at the same gas station weekly for nearly 10 years, without ever winning.
“My friends have houses upstate and whenever I go, I stop at the same gas station off the Long Island Expressway and get my coffee and gas and Lotto tickets,” he said. “That’s my routine.”
Ritieni told ABC News he plans to accept the lump-sum payout of around $1.8 million. After taxes, Ritieni says he expects to take home around $1.3 million.
“For now, I’m going to secure my kids’ future,” Ritieni said. “That’s more important than anything.”
Ritieni says he has met with lottery officials and submitted the paperwork requesting the lump-sum payout but that lotto officials told him it will be “a few weeks” before he receives his check.
While he waits, and beyond, Ritieni plans to keep working and also says he will keep buying lottery tickets, hoping that, “lightning will strike twice.”
“My son told me I already beat the odds because he says there’s a greater chance of getting killed by a vending machine than winning the lottery,” Ritieni said.
Calls placed to the New York Lottery were not returned.