he winners of the $656 million Mega Millions jackpot were picked on Friday, but three days later, the identity of the lucky millionaires remains frustratingly shrouded in mystery. Why haven't the ticket holders come forward? Here, a brief guide to the aftermath of the chase for the biggest lottery bonanza in U.S. history:
Where are the winners?
Three winning tickets were sold — in Kansas, Illinois, and Maryland. Kansas Lottery officials say no one has come forward yet to claim the prize, and until a winner emerges, they won't even identify the northeast Kansas store where the lucky ticket was purchased. In the case of the Illinois winner, we know a little more: The ticket was sold in the tiny town of Red Bud, pop. 3,640, at the Moto Mart convenience store. "I heard a lot of darn it, was it me? Or darn it, I forgot to get my ticket," store manager Denise Metzger tells NBC News. "Of course the language is a little more colorful than that." The third winning ticket was sold in Maryland, where the story is a bit more complicated.
What's going on in Maryland?
A 37-year-old single mother of seven, Mirlande Wilson, told the New York Post that she has the winning ticket. Wilson works at a Maryland McDonald's, where she and her co-workers pooled their money to buy tickets. To the chagrin of her colleagues, who make a little more than $7.50 an hour, Wilson says she also bought several tickets on her own, and it was one of those that bore the winning numbers — 2, 4, 23, 38, 46, and megaball 23. But as of midday Monday, Wilson had not produced the ticket, and a security video from the Milford, Md., 7-11 where it was purchased suggested the winner was actually a man.
How much do the winners stand to collect?
Each gets a third of the $656 million jackpot. That's $218 million and change, or $105 million after taxes. That's if they take it in annual chunks of just over $5.5 million over 26 years. If they want to cash in right away, they'll each get a lump sum of about $158 million before taxes.
Is that the biggest payout ever?
No. The biggest individual payoff went to 81-year-old Louisa White of Rhode Island, who picked up $210 million in the Feb. 11 Powerball drawing. Eight Nebraska food plant workers won the biggest shared prize ever, when they won $365 million in 2006.
What happens if nobody collects the money?
Don't get your hopes up. It usually takes up to a week for a winner to claim a prize, and lottery rules give them up to a year to come forward before forfeiting their winnings. So if you're among the Americans who poured $1.5 billion into tickets for a chance to win the jackpot (even though you were 50 times more likely to get hit by lightning), you might want to move on. And remember, it took 60 drawings without a winner to push the Mega Millions jackpot this high. If you win the next drawing, you'll have to make do with a paltry $12 million.
Sources: ABC News, Boston Globe, MSNBC, New York Post, Wash. Post
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