An unemployed New Jersey man who won last Friday’s $273 million Mega Millions jackpot said he wants to reward the mystery person who returned the tickets to a store where he’d left them a day earlier.
Mike Weirsky said at a news conference with lottery officials Thursday that he bought the tickets last Thursday at a Quick Check store in Phillipsburg, near the Pennsylvania border, and forgot them there because he was more focused on his cellphone.
Someone found them and gave them to the store to hold. When Weirsky returned on Friday, he verified the tickets were his and store employees returned them.
Lottery officials said Thursday that if the person who found the tickets had held onto them and signed them, they could have claimed the jackpot.
“I’m looking for the guy that handed them in, I want to thank him,” Weirsky said. “I’m going to give him something, but I’m going to keep that private.”
The 54-year-old says he got divorced last fall and had been a stay-at-home husband for years while his wife worked. He said he’d been looking for work for about a year and hadn’t gotten any calls for interviews — until Wednesday, by which time work had ceased to be a priority.
“I had to deny it before I even went,” he said.
He also said his ex-wife reached out to him Wednesday, though he wouldn't elaborate regarding what she said to him.
For now, Weirsky says he’s going to “sit back and enjoy” the money.
"I always wanted to know what it would be like to be able to just wake up and decide to go somewhere or go buy something and just do it," he said. "And when I get the money I'm gonna go ahead and do that."
He said the first thing he’s going to do is buy a new pickup truck, then buy his mother a new car and pay to remodel her home.
“After that I’m basically locked in to what my lawyer and other people I have working for me tell me I can do,” he said.
Weirsky, who has been playing the lottery for years, said he checked the tickets at home on Sunday and saw he’d matched the numbers, but couldn’t quite believe his eyes. He went back to the store during Sunday night’s snowstorm and got the news.
"I just didn't believe that it was me," he said. "After all these years of playing I finally had something that said, 'You're a bigger winner than two dollars."