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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Winning ticket found in trash

Associated Press

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. – It took a scramble through a variety store trash basket to recover a $4.86 million Quinto ticket and salvage the biggest payout in the history of the game, the winner and store officials say.

Leonetta Garcia, 54, of Port Orchard, a dietary department worker at the state veterans home in Retsil, said she nearly lost the ticket that entitled her to a check she picked up Wednesday for $3.645 million after a deduction for income taxes.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Garcia said. “It’s unreal.”

She decided to buy lottery tickets March 6 when she opened a fortune cookie that had “lucky” lottery numbers on the back of the fortune.

At a Fred Meyer store she got state Lotto and multistate Mega Millions tickets with the numbers, plus a Quinto ticket with a hand chosen by computer. Each Quinto ticket bears five cards from a standard deck, and a match of all five wins the top payout.

On March 8, a day after the drawing, she asked Sherry Brust, a Fred Meyer clerk, to check the tickets and learned she had a big winner.

“I checked the (Quinto) ticket and it said: ‘Do not pay,’ ” Brust said. “I told her, ‘Whoa, that’s a lot of money.’ “

Garcia grabbed Brust’s hand in disbelief, Brust handed Garcia her redemption ticket and the winning Quinto ticket got mixed in with Garcia’s losers.

“It was so fast,” Brust said. “I was checking three tickets, I told her she was a winner and then she grabbed my hand and took off. It was a matter of seconds. I was in shock. She was in shock.”

Realizing the big winner was in the trash, the clerk got some other Fred Meyer employees to help her recover it. No sooner had they found it than Garcia called and Brust told her it had been found and placed in the store’s safe.

“I told her, ‘I love you!’ ” Garcia said.

From there the ticket went into a safe deposit box while Garcia consulted a lawyer and financial adviser.

“I’m so used to being poor that I don’t know what to do with this much money,” she said. “I just feel like we’re blessed, and we have money to do something with to enjoy life and take care of my family.”

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