Retiree claims $425.3 million Powerball prize in California

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Apr 2, 2014 2:30pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A retired Northern California man has claimed a $425.3 million national Powerball prize, more than a month after the sixth-highest jackpot drawing in U.S. history was announced, lottery officials said on Wednesday.

Raymond Buxton turned up at the Sacramento office of the California Lottery on Tuesday with the winning ticket from the February 19 drawing, California Lottery spokeswoman Melissa Villarin said.

Buxton, whose age was not released, wore a faded T-shirt with an image of the "Star Wars" character Yoda, wearing leprechaun attire, emblazoned with the words "Luck of the Jedi I have," lottery officials said in a written statement.

Buxton purchased his ticket for $2 at a Chevron gas station, in the Northern California city of Milpitas, about 40 miles southeast of San Francisco, where he went to buy a sandwich for lunch, lottery officials said. It was the second ticket he bought for the drawing.

After learning that he hit the largest jackpot ever won in California with the numbers - 17, 49, 54, 35, 1 and 34 - Buxton said he could barely speak.

"'Unbelievable!' is all I could muster," Buxton told lottery officials, according to the statement. "I sat in front of the computer for hours in disbelief, frequently checking and rechecking the numbers across multiple sources. Once the initial shock passed I couldn't sleep for days," he said.

Buxton, the lone recipient of the massive prize, opted for the lump sum of $242.2 million before federal taxes, lottery officials said. Before claiming the money, he waited to assemble a legal and financial team and spoke little about his winnings.

"Sitting on a ticket of this value was very scary," Buxton said, according to the lottery statement.

With the earnings, Buxton plans to travel and launch a charitable foundation for children, he told lottery officials.

Powerball is played in 43 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In the last two years, Powerball prizes have steeply increased due to a doubling in ticket prices to $2 and because California, the nation's most populous state, joined the game.

In May 2013, a Florida resident took home the biggest prize in Powerball history - $590 million.

A delivery driver who shared in a $648 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot with one other person in December bought his winning ticket from a gift shop in San Jose, about 10 miles from Milpitas.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Nick Zieminski)

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