The New Jersey man who won a $533 million Mega Millions jackpot was playing for only the second time in his life.
Richard Wahl, who just moved to New Jersey from Michigan for his job last July, won the biggest Mega Millions jackpot in New Jersey state history last month.
The story of how he won was "a little amusing," he admitted. He said he was talking with a work colleague about retirement when he decided to buy his first ever Mega Millions ticket. He didn't win. "My wife looked at me and said, "Why buy?," he said. But Wahl decided to go back for one more try. He said he went into the gas station with $22 in his pocket, and left with a Diet Coke and a lottery ticket. It was a winner.
That sole winning ticket for the March 30 jackpot was sold at a Lukoil station in Riverdale. The winning numbers were 11, 28, 31, 46, 59 and Mega Ball 1. (ICYMI: If you're wondering, here are the luckiest lotto stores in New York.)
When he saw that last winning number on his ticket after the drawing, Wahl said he didn't believe it at first. He woke up his wife, and the two of them checked the numbers at least 15 times. It wasn't until the next morning that lottery officials announced there was a winner in the jackpot that it really sunk in for him, Wahl said at a news conference Friday morning.
He and his family stayed in their house all weekend, nervously guarding their "lifechanging" ticket.
"We cried a lot together as a family," said Wahl. "We didn't sleep that much. The nerves, the shock of everything. I don't think it's still settled in for us."
Wahl didn't want to discuss his family at the press conference, telling reporters he wanted to protect their privacy and would have preferred to stay anonymous if he had the option (New Jersey state lottery does not allow that). But he said his wife is humble and doesn't want much, and added tearfully, his voice breaking, "She's my queen, I will make sure she's taken care of."
They plan to hire a financial advisor and figure out what they'll do with their winnings. Wahl especially says he wants to help family and friends who need it, both in the U.S. and abroad. His wife is from Mexico, and "we really want to help out her family in Mexico," he said.
"We're just humbled by the fact that everything's happened," he said.
Station owner Ameer Karass told News 4 said people have been calling and stopping by since they found out his station sold the winning ticket to offering congratulations.
"It's a celebration," Karass told News 4. "It's Christmas coming in Easter."
In fact, Wahl said, he actually went back to that same gas station when news cameras were there, after it was announced it had sold the winning ticket. He'd unknowingly walked into the media crush while he was trying to get cash from the ATM, and thought he saw the clerk give him a double look, he laughed.
Wahl said he told some close family and friends, as well as his employer because he didn't want to leave them hanging.
The $533 million is the annuity option, in which payments are made over 29 years. Wahl said he chose the cash option, at around $317 million.
Lottery officials say it was the fourth-largest jackpot in Mega Millions history and the largest single jackpot winning ticket ever sold in New Jersey. The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever was $656 million in 2012 and had three winning tickets -- one each in Kansas, Maryland and Illinois.
Mega Millions is played in 44 states plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The odds of winning are one in 303 million.