SACRAMENTO, Jan 3 (Reuters) - The elusive winner of a massive December lottery jackpot has come forward in California, after spending much of the past two weeks not realizing that he had won $324 million, officials said.
Delivery driver Steve Tran showed up late Thursday at the Sacramento office of the California Lottery, brandishing the winning ticket from the Dec. 17 Mega Millions drawing, lottery spokesman Alex Traverso said Friday.
Tran, who lives in Northern California, and a jackpot winner from Georgia will split the total winnings of $648 million.
When the winning tickets were pulled, it was clear that one had been sold in the California city of San Jose. But Tran had forgotten that he had purchased five tickets at Jennifer’s Gift Shop on a family trip to the Silicon Valley city.
For days, Tran said, he followed the story of the missing winner, not realizing he was the one until about 3 a.m. Monday morning, Traverso said in a press release.
“I woke up in the middle of the night,” he told lottery officials. “I remembered: I think I went to San Jose.”
Tran got up, checked his tickets and sure enough, he was the winner. He opted to take his share in a single lump sum, which amounts to $173.8 million before taxes.
Federal taxes will take a bite of 25%, and he is not required to pay California taxes on his win. Had he taken his winnings over a period of 30 years, he would have collected the $324 million.
Tran will split the jackpot with 56-year-old Ira Curry of the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain, who also opted to take her money in a lump sum.
After hugging his wife, Tran told lottery officials, he left a message for his employer.
“I‘m really sorry boss,” he recalled saying. “I hit the jackpot. I don’t think I‘m going to come in today, tomorrow, or ever.” (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Bernard Orr)