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How One Man Won $324M And Didn’t Realize It For 2 Weeks

One of two winning tickets in last month’s $648 million Mega Millions jackpot was sold here, at Jenny’s Gift Shop in San Jose. The guy who bought it didn’t realize what he had for nearly two weeks. John G. Mabanglo /EPA/LANDOV hide caption

One of two winning tickets in last month’s $648 million Mega Millions jackpot was sold here, at Jenny’s Gift Shop in San Jose. The guy who bought it didn’t realize what he had for nearly two weeks.

John G. Mabanglo /EPA/LANDOV

The second very lucky winner of last month’s massive Mega Millions jackpot is a California delivery driver who didn’t get around to checking his lottery tickets for nearly two weeks.

The other person who bought one of the two winning tickets is a Georgia woman, Ira Curry, who claimed her prize on Dec. 18 — the day after the drawing.

But Steve Tran didn’t claim his windfall because he’d been on vacation and had left the tickets he’d bought at home, California lottery officials say. Tran, whose hometown hasn’t been identified, isn’t talking publicly. But in a press release the lottery officials report that Tran tells them:

“He added [the ultimately winning] ticket to a pile of other Lottery tickets he had purchased in multiple other towns while making his runs as a delivery driver. According to Tran, the entire lot ended up ‘Just sitting in my house, on top of my drawer.’

“That’s right. The golden ticket was sitting there waiting to be discovered. The family, meanwhile, has been on vacation. They only recently returned home. Tran said he was exhausted, but out of nowhere, something clicked. ‘I woke up in the middle of the night. I remembered, I think I went to San Jose.’

“It was around 3:00 a.m. Monday [Dec. 30]. Tran said he checked his tickets and discovered he had hit the jackpot. The wife got a smile and a massive hug. Tran has also informed some other family members. He said he phoned his boss and left a message that went something like this: ‘I’m really sorry boss. I hit the jackpot. I don’t think I’m going to come in today, tomorrow, or ever.’ “

Tran and Curry will split the $648 million jackpot. That’s $324 million each before taxes, in theory. But most winners (including Curry) elect to take their share in a lump sum, rather than having it paid out over 30 years. If Tran takes that option, officials say, he’ll get $173.8 million before taxes. The Mercury News says he would “clear about $130.3 million after federal taxes.”

According to the lottery, “the California winner does not have to pay state tax on the win.”

Steve Tran of Northern California had a big winner sitting on top of a drawer and didn’t know it. When he finally got around to checking the ticket, though, he realized his life had changed.

Mega Millions: Late discovery leads to delivery driver claiming $324 million lottery prize

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SAN JOSE — Two weeks of suspense over who won a $324 million lottery prize ended Friday with the announcement that a delivery driver who bought the winning ticket at an East San Jose gift shop finally stepped forward to claim his winnings.

But who is Steve Tran from “Northern California?”

The state’s newest multimillionaire slipped into the lottery’s Sacramento headquarters the day after New Year’s — and just three days after he realized he had the ticket — to claim $173.8 million, before taxes.

Tran declined to participate in the traditional news conference for winners, instead providing only a few comments and details to lottery officials to release Friday.

Tran said he is — or was — a delivery driver who loves to visit San Jose with his family and bought tickets throughout his route.

Among the nuggets revealed: Tran told lottery officials that after learning he had the winning Mega Millions ticket, he made a call to his boss.

“I’m really sorry, boss. I hit the jackpot,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to come in today, tomorrow, or ever.”

The winning numbers were drawn Dec. 17. When days passed and no one came forward, the news cameras went into hibernation on the story. Some thought the winner might have been waiting out the holidays or lining up a cadre of lawyers ready to march in with him as he claimed the fortune.

It appears the nail-biting delay has a much simpler answer: Tran didn’t even know he was the winner until this week.

On the day after the winning numbers were drawn, Tran said he watched the story in the news with as much wonder about the winner as millions of other Californians.

“Everybody was anxious, looking for the person,” Tran told the California Lottery. “Must be a lucky man.”

Then he took his family on vacation. The entire time, he had a pile of lottery tickets he had bought in multiple towns while making delivery runs.

“Just sitting in my house, on top of my drawer,” Tran said.

They returned from the trip, and about 3 a.m. Monday, an electrifying thought raced through his mind and startled him out of slumber.

“I woke up in the middle of the night,” Tran told lottery officials. “I remembered, I think I went to San Jose.”

Tran checked his tickets and made the $324 million discovery. Then he made his phone call to his boss.

According to the agency, Tran has chosen to take his winnings in one $173.8 million lump sum and will clear about $130.3 million after federal taxes. He is one of two winners in the nationwide $648 million drawing — the second-largest jackpot in U.S. history. The other newly minted multimillionaire, Ira Curry, of Georgia, claimed her winnings and immediately dropped out of sight. She also took her bonanza as a lump sum — $123 million after taxes.

Tran says he and his family visit San Jose because of its large Vietnamese community and the shopping and restaurants. Tran said he bought five quick-pick tickets at Jenny’s Gift & Kids Wear, a store tucked away in a Tully Road strip mall.

But there is no word on what he plans to do with the money other than take a vacation.

The California Lottery discloses only the winner’s name, where the ticket was purchased and the amount of the prize, spokesman Alex Traverso said.

Friday morning, the man who sold the winning ticket in San Jose was busier than ever. Thuy Nguyen, the gift shop owner who received $1 million for selling the ticket, said Tran made deliveries at the strip mall and was an occasional customer at his store.

“I’m proud for him. I’m happy for him,” Nguyen said.

In being a source of the winner’s good fortune, Nguyen said he saw it as a contribution to the community.

“That must have been the reason I’m here,” he said.

Nguyen’s lottery sales have jumped about 30 percent since he sold the winning Mega Millions ticket. Droves of ticket buyers poured into his shop Friday morning; at one point he doled out tickets without interruption for 20 minutes..

After each sale, he gave customers a hopeful send-off: “I wish you the best.”

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