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CHINO HILLS: $528.8 million Powerball winners finally come forward

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A crowd celebrates outside a Chino Hills 7-Eleven after it was announced the store sold one of the winning tickets in the record $1.6 billion Powerball drawing Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016.

7-Eleven assistant manager M. Faroqui celebrates after selling the winning $1.5 billion Powerball Lottery ticket in Chino Hills, Calif. on Wednesday night, Jan. 13, 2016.

For about seven months, Marvin and Mae Acosta kept to themselves in a home in a quiet cul de sac in Eastvale

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of Eastvale resident Rodrigo Jimenez.

Six months after a $1.6 billion Powerball lottery jackpot set records, the holder of the winning ticket bought at a Chino Hills 7-Eleven has finally come forward.

Marvin and Mae Acosta were announced as the winners in a tweet from the California Lottery on Tuesday morning. Their hometown was not revealed, but a property search and neighbors confirmed they lived in Eastvale — until last week.

The couple wants “to remain as private as possible,” the tweet says.

The drawing Jan. 13 set off a nationwide frenzy, with three tickets poised to share the jackpot, or $528.8 million apiece. When word got out that California’s winning ticket was sold at the 7-Eleven at 4092 Chino Hills Parkway, owned by Balbir Atwal, the store quickly filled with people celebrating the win – but the actual winner was not among them.

The winners from Tennessee came forward almost immediately, while the Florida winners took about a month to reveal themselves.

Meanwhile, Chino Hills waited and wondered.

“We finally know who our mystery winners are,” California Lottery Director Hugo Lopez said in a statement. “It may have taken six months for them to come to one of our offices, but these winners did just what we tell all our winners to do – they read our Winner’s Handbook and then assembled a team of legal and financial advisers to help them make the most of this windfall.”

Lopez added that he “couldn’t be happier for them and are thrilled they took the time to assemble the right team before coming in to claim.”

According to the California Lottery, the Acostas declined a 30-year annuity worth $528.8 million before federal taxes, opting instead for a one-time payment of $327.8 million, as the Tennessee and Florida couples did.

The couple is refusing all interviews and requests for photographs, according to lottery officials. They did release this statement:

“We are thankful and blessed for the rare gift that has been placed in our care. We have engaged a team of advisers to educate and guide us through this process so that we can be good stewards of these new resources.

“While many decisions are still to be made, we have committed nearly all of this new resource to a trust and to charities that are important to us,” their statement continues. “While we are very grateful for the wonderful wishes and encouragement we’ve received, it is not our intention to become public figures, and we ask for and appreciate privacy going forward. Thank you.”

For about seven months, Marvin and Mae Acosta kept to themselves in a home in a quiet cul-de-sac in Eastvale with their neighbors unaware that the couple held a multimillion-dollar winning Powerball ticket.

The couple, who appeared to be in their 40s, moved in around last December but did not interact with other neighbors, said Rodrigo Jimenez, 67, who lives in a house nearby.

“They don’t say hi, they don’t say nothing,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez said he saw two large moving trucks pack up the house and leave Friday.

A next-door neighbor, who would only give her name as Emily, said Marvin Acosta would sometimes wave to her, but she didn’t know much about the family.

They had two children, a girl who appeared to be 15, and a boy of 4 or 5, she said. The girl would sometimes play basketball out front, Emily said.

She, like other neighbors, was surprised to learn that the Acostas won the lottery.

“I’m very happy for them,” said Maria Franco, 67, who said she never spoke to them once.

The cul-de-sac is part of the Brooke Terrace neighborhood not far from Roosevelt High School in Eastvale. No cars were in the driveway or in front of the Acosta home, a tan and brown-trim colored stucco home with a brown tile roof. The grass and bushes out front were neatly manicured.

“For having that much money I’m surprised they lived here,” said another neighbor, Josh Schreter, 37.

the Chino Hills winner remained shrouded in mystery for months . Initially, several hoaxters claimed ownership of the golden ticket. Meanwhile, Atwal collected his $1 million for owning the business that sold the ticket, and the clerk who handled the transaction, M. Faroqui, enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame, landing a guest spot on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Approached by reporters Tuesday morning with the news, Atwal asked: “Are you sure?”

After hearing that the news came from state lottery officials, he added that he’s “so happy for them. And I’m glad that they play here.”

Powerball is played in 44 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Unlike the California-only SuperLotto Plus jackpot winners – who must come forward with their ticket within 180 days of the draw date – Powerball winners have a year to stake their claim.

Since news spread about the history-making ticket, business is booming, Atwal added. He’s seen a 30 percent uptick in sales overall, with an 80 percent increase in lottery ticket sales.

Asked if people feel lucky in Chino Hills, he said, “Yes, they are.”

Staff writer Neil Nisperos contributed to this report.

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