Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland’s mega millionaires! Public school educators who call themselves “The Three Amigos” share the world’s largest lottery jackpot.
Mike Hellgren reports on their incredible story and plans for the future.
Mega mystery solved. The three teachers laughed at impostors–knowing they had the real ticket. A few dollars spent on the lottery really paid off.
You can’t see their faces, but you just know they’re smiling behind that big check. After all, each winner gets almost $35 million.
Maryland Lottery officials say two teachers and an administrative support employee went into a pool for $60 total and bought tickets at three locations. The winning ticket came from a Milford Mill 7-Eleven.
Among the three are an elementary school teacher and a special education teacher with modest dreams.
“All three plan to invest their money, and at some point in time, purchase new homes– not the kind of ostentatious brandishing of this money that would necessarily bring them a lot of attention,” said Stephen Martino, director of the Maryland Lottery.
Officials say a woman in her 20s, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 50s shared the winning ticket. All have met with financial advisors, but are said to be “overwhelmed.”
Officials told WJZ the night of the drawing one woman had all the tickets spread out on the floor. She saw they had a winning ticket and called the other two winners. One of the winners thought the other two were pulling an April Fool’s joke.
After discussing the win, the threesome came up with a plan.
“We made copies of the ticket, and we each signed the copies,” said one of the women. “At 1 a.m., I took the ticket and drove to my mother’s house to put it in her safe. I didn’t even take time to pack any clothes — I just drove.”
And like many, they watched a McDonald’s worker from South Baltimore claim she was the winner and get plenty of attention. Only they knew the truth.
Lottery officials say the three winners were amused last week with Mirlande Wilson’s claim that she held the winning ticket. Like the rest of the world, they watched the media circus surround the single mother of seven who told the media the ticket was hidden in the McDonald’s where she worked, and then claimed she “misplaced” it. She even hired a lawyer to handle the firestorm of questions from reporters. She wasn’t the winner.
“They had been privately laughing among themselves and privately texting back and forth that other people were claiming to have the ticket when in fact they knew where the ticket was,” Martino said.
While the winners will stay anonymous, lottery officials called the winners “modest” and “humble.” The winners say they plan to stay on the job because they want to help young people and “can’t give up my kids.”
They all work for a public school system, but all three are not currently working together. All three work multiple jobs.
“We are thrilled that three such deserving Marylanders have won this money,” Martino said. “It’s gratifying to know that these individuals, who have given so much to the public through the years, have had this wonderful luck. It couldn’t have happened to nicer people.”
The threesome bought $20 worth of tickets at the machine inside a Milford Mill 7-Eleven–all quick picks–and had them printed off individually.
When they went to lottery headquarters on Monday, one woman carried the unsigned winning ticket in an envelope in her purse and the other 59 in a separate envelope. Out of the other tickets, they won $1.
“They were so clearly committed to their kids. When we asked them, ‘Are you going to continue to teach?’ They both said, ‘Yes. I can’t give up my kids,’” Martino said.
“At least they care about the children and they care about the children’s education so I think that’s good, too,” said Daeisha McCargo, Milford Mill High School student.
Still many wonder: Is my kid’s teacher the one with the golden ticket?
“I’m sure they’ll get a new car. They’ll have something luxury on the lot. I’m sure their wardrobe will change. Something will change. You never know,” said Sherkeria Simmons, parent.
When asked if they had plans for their newfound fortune, their answers varied: “I’m going to help my children with their college expenses, pay off my house and buy a house for my sister,” said the man. “I plan on backpacking through Europe with my brother,” said one of the women. “I’m going to go to Italy’s wine country,” the other woman chimed in. “Most importantly,” she added, “we’re going to be careful with how the money is spent. I watched coverage of the jackpot win on television all week, just so I could listen to the financial advice the professionals were offering.”
Officials also say at least one had prayed for financial help.
“They’d just been in church and they’d said kind of a silent prayer for just some help in paying some bills,” said Martino.
There were three winning tickets nationwide for the record $656 million jackpot. The other winning tickets were sold in Kansas and Illinois. The winning tickets matched all six numbers: 2-4-23-38-46 and the Mega Ball 23. The Kansas winner, who chose to remain anonymous, claimed the prize last week. The Illinois winner has not yet come forward.
As a result of the big Mega Millions win, Maryland will receive more than $13 million in additional tax revenue. The store that sold the winning ticket will receive a $100,000 bonus.