Computer tech claims multimillion-dollar lotto jackpot just in time
NEWARK, New Jersey (CNN) -- A mild-mannered computer technician with a lot of faith in the U.S. Postal Service came forward Friday to receive a year-old, multimillion-dollar Big Game lottery prize.
Melvin Milligan, 40, a native of Passaic, New Jersey, said that when a convenience store clerk told him he was the winner of the contest with a payout of $23.7 million, he decided to mail in the ticket -- which he had found stuffed in a "drawer full of junk" in his house -- two days before it expired.
Milligan said he filled out a claim form and dropped the ticket in a mail slot at a closed post office in Clifton, New Jersey, without giving a second thought to the fact that the ticket might get lost.
"I guess I wasn't thinking. I just put it in the mailbox," Milligan said. He added it was the store clerk who suggested he mail in his claim form.
His wife, Kim, said there would have been dire consequences if she had found the ticket after the deadline.
"I guess I'd be at the jailhouse, because he would have been dead," she said to laughter from the press corps at a news conference Friday.
A ceremonial check was presented to Milligan by Acting New Jersey Gov. Donald DiFrancesco and New Jersey Lottery Executive Director Virginia Haines.
While the jackpot was worth $46 million if paid out over 20 years, Milligan chose a one-time cash payout and received $23.7 million.
"This is the first time a winner of a multimillion-dollar prize has ever mailed in his ticket," said Haines, who added it was also the largest Big Game jackpot in New Jersey history.
She said Milligan had also waited the longest in lottery history to claim his prize -- 363 days.
Haines said the lottery prefers that multimillion-dollar winners bring their tickets in. Usually, big winners "drive up in their limousines with marching bands," she said.
She said that even if the ticket had gotten lost in the mail, Milligan would have gotten his money, just not as soon, because the store clerk had validated it in the lottery's computer system.
Milligan said he spent $5 on "quick picks" one day after stopping by Krauszer's Convenient Store in Montvale, New Jersey, to "get a soda" after repairing a client's computer.
He said he put the ticket in a drawer with "a lot of junk papers I should have thrown away" and never thought about it again until he heard on the news the year-old prize had still not been claimed and the ticket was about to expire.
He said it took him about 10 minutes to find the ticket when he began looking for it on June 7, two days before the ticket in the June 9, 2000, lottery drawing was about to expire. He mailed it the evening of June 7.
The winning numbers were 6, 7, 25, 34, 45 and the Big Money Ball number was 2. Milligan said he never knew what the numbers were because the ticket was a quick pick chosen by the computer.
What was it like when he realized he was the winner?
"I didn't scream and yell at all," he said. "My wife did all the screaming and yelling."
He said he and his wife will buy a nice house with their new wealth, and they might also take a cruise. "I'm going to try to keep working," he added with a smile.
The states participating in the Big Game lottery are New Jersey, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois and Virginia.
CNN Field Producer Shannon Troetel contributed to this report.
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