Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

$23m prize claimed just in time

A US woman spent five months struggling to pay household bills without realising she had won millions on the lottery.

Julie Cervera struggled to find money to pay a 600 US dollars (£375) electrical bill, feed her family and keep the cable company from shutting off her service because she could not pay.

Meanwhile, her 23 million US dollars (£14.3 million) lottery ticket languished forgotten in the glove compartment of her car.

On Thursday, someone texted her a photo of her daughter, Charliena Marquez, buying the winning ticket for her at a Palmdale store. The photo had been released by lottery officials searching for the mysterious winner of the May draw.

"I put my 99-cent glasses on, and I had to put two pairs on to see it," said 69-year-old Mrs Cervera. She recognised her daughter in the grainy photo, but she still could not read the caption.

"I thought she robbed a bank because I couldn't see the words on top," she said with a laugh. "So I put on a third pair (of glasses) and it said she won. I was like, 'No way!'."

Back in May, mother and daughter were driving home together when Ms Marquez felt queasy and asked her mother to pull over so she could buy a bottle of water.

"She always gets car-sick," Mrs Cervera said.

Mrs Cervera asked her daughter to buy her a lottery ticket and dug in her purse trying to find a dollar. Ms Marquez protested but eventually used her own money to purchase a Super Lotto Plus ticket for her mother.

"I put it in my new car. It's an old car but it's new to me. It's been there for five months," Mrs Cervera said at a news conference with her three adult children and half a dozen grandchildren lined up behind her. "I've got like 200 tickets laying around my house. I never check my tickets."

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