MENIFEE, Calif. (AP) — Lottery officials on Monday gave a ceremonial million-dollar check to the owners of a Southern California liquor store that sold the winning $447.8 million Powerball jackpot ticket and said whoever bought it has still not come forward to claim the prize.
At the busy store right off the freeway in the small city of Menifee, residents stopped by to congratulate members of the Alberre family, who have owned the business for more than two decades, and muse about whether someone among them might be about to take home the 10th largest lottery prize in U.S. history.
California lottery officials said a sole winning ticket was sold at the Marietta Liquor & Deli, but they won’t reveal when the purchase took place to avoid encouraging false claims.
Russ Lopez, a lottery spokesman, urged whoever has the ticket to seek sound financial and legal advice. The winner has up to a year to claim the prize.
“That’s a lot of money for somebody in this area,” Lopez said as community members snapped photos outside the lucky store. “Winning the lottery should never be a nightmare.”
The Alberre family said they didn’t know what they would do with the $1 million bonus awarded to the retailer that sold the winning ticket.
Albeir Alberre, a 65-year-old immigrant originally from Syria, said the store has sold a few winners since he started the business in the late 1990s but never this big. His son, Matthew Alberre, said he couldn’t believe when he received a call with the news at his cousin’s high school graduation party Saturday night.
“I was in shock at first,” said the 26-year-old Alberre. “It’s an incredible feeling. I’m just very blessed to be a part of this.”
The store caters to local residents in the Sun City area of Menifee, which was originally developed as a retirement community in the 1960s, and is also a common stop for motorists passing through the area about 80 miles (130 kilometers) from Los Angeles.
Sun City has about 4,700 homes developed for residents age 55 and older. Today, the homes clustered around a golf course are part of Menifee, population 89,000.
Richard Byham, a 68-year-old retired mailman, said he plays the lottery daily at the store and rushed to check his numbers after hearing the winning ticket was sold there.
“This is as close as I’ve ever come, and I’m still excited,” Byham said. “It was one heck of a rush to see this address and name pop up.”
The lucky numbers drawn Saturday night were 20-26-32-38-58, and the Powerball number was 3.
Powerball is played in 44 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The estimated jackpot prize is based on a winner choosing an annuity, which pays off over 29 years. The cash prize would be $279.1 million. Both prize amounts would be before taxes are deducted.
Before the drawing Saturday night, the jackpot was estimated at $435 million. It had grown because no one had matched all the numbers since April 1.
The odds of winning Saturday’s drawing were one in 292.2 million.
Associated Press writer Scott McFetridge contributed from Des Moines, Iowa.