1 of 3 US Mega Millions winner claims prize

Posted at 04/07/12 8:31 AM

WASHINGTON - The world-record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot found a winner on Friday in Kansas, but two-thirds of the winnings have yet to be claimed a full week after the lottery was drawn.

Kansas lottery chief Dennis Wilson said his state's winner turned up at his offices in Topeka shortly before noon with a lawyer and financial officer in tow and a request to stay out of the headlines.

"We were so thrilled to meet with the winner earlier today and welcome the winner to the Kansas millionaire family," Wilson said.

Even though the winner has elected to remain anonymous, there is great reason for celebration across the state."

Careful not to disclose the winner's age, hometown or even gender, Wilson said he or she had opted for a single check for $110.5 million -- a third of the jackpot minus taxes -- in lieu of 26 yearly installments.

Tickets with the winning combination of 2, 4, 23, 38, 46 plus Mega Ball 23 -- drawn last Friday -- were sold in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland amid an unprecedented nationwide lottery-buying frenzy.

Wilson said the winner, a regular lottery player, was unaware of his or her Mega Millions windfall prior to checking the ticket number on Monday.

"They actually just checked the tickets of all the games they had purchased and found out they were the winner," he said.

"They checked it over 10 times to make sure they were reading it right, to verify it, and they still had a hard time believing it."

Despite Wilson's use of the plural "they," a Kansas state lottery spokeswoman confirmed to AFP in an email that there was just one winner, and not a group that had pooled money to buy tickets.

In Maryland, a 37-year-old Haitian-born mother of seven who claimed at the start of the week that she held a winning Mega Millions ticket told a Washington television station that she had "misplaced" it.

Colleagues at the McDonald's fast-food outlet in Baltimore where Mirlande Wilson is an assistant manager disputed her claim that the ticket was hers, arguing they were part of a workplace pool and entitled to share the loot.

Winners have until September 28 to come forward, Maryland state lottery director Stephen Martino told reporters Thursday, adding that "we will wait... until someone walks through our door" with the correct ticket.

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