TRENTON, N.J. – The winner of a $533 million lottery jackpot wasn’t sure he could believe his eyes. So, when his mother called to say someone in his new home state had won it, his response was: It wasn’t me.
Forty-seven-year-old Richard Wahl, of Vernon, New Jersey, was introduced Friday during a news conference at lottery headquarters after winning the half-billion March Mega Millions drawing, the largest single jackpot in state history.
Wahl, a production manager at a food services company in the northern part of the state, said he plans to retire and take the cash payout over the annuity, totaling $220.7 million after taxes.
He described finding out he had the winning ticket late at night:
“It was truly amazing. Some of my family members were sleeping so I didn’t go and scream out. I walked upstairs. I saw my wife … and said, ‘Baby, we get to go on vacation.’ She said, ‘What are you talking about? Don’t be an idiot.“’
He said he checked the numbers 15 times, kept the ticket in a fireproof safe and wanted to be sure the win was for real before he told other family members.
“Actually the weird thing is my mom actually called me before I wanted to tell her and told me ‘I heard somebody in New Jersey won the lottery, was it you?“’ Wahl said. “And I wasn’t ready to share with her yet, so I told her, ‘Absolutely not, mother.“’
He bought the winning ticket at a Lukoil gas station in northern New Jersey and said the numbers were machine picked.
“That’s why we believe it’s God’s plan,” he said.
He said he went back to the Lukoil to fuel up after he won but before he came forward. It happened to be the same day the state lottery was presenting a $30,000 check to the station for having sold the winning ticket.
He said he saw all the cameras and decided to walk out, worried that he might be recognized since he wasn’t ready to come forward yet.
Wahl moved to New Jersey from Michigan in July for work and says one of his dreams is to restore a 1963 Corvette.
He described his family as humble and said they wanted to help people.
“For us the plan is to do a lot of good things with it,” Wahl said. “It’s not only life changing money for me, but I want it to be life changing money for family, friends, people in need.”
He said he’s not regular lottery player, but decided to play after talking to a coworker about how they’d retire if they won.
He declined to talk about his family or go into details about where they might go or if they’d move. He said his wife was from Mexico.
The lump-sum option totaled $324.6 million, but after 24 percent in federal taxes and 8 percent for the state, Wahl is taking $220.7 million home, according to acting lottery executive director John White.
Mega Millions is played in 44 states plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Wahl’s win was the fourth-biggest in the game’s history.
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