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California Super Lotto Finds $23 M Mystery Winner

4 Nov 2012

Imagine struggling to pay a $600 electrical bill and trying to keep the cable company from shutting off your service while all along being a $23 million millionaire for over five months. One Californian grandma couldn’t have asked for better news!

Julie Cervera, a 69-year-old disabled widow, from Victorville, CA just recently claimed her $23 million California Super Lotto prize – just in time. Her winning lottery ticket was set to expire on November 26th, but luckily she came across a photo, which was released by lottery officials searching for the mysterious winner. The photo was of her daughter, Charliena Marquez, purchasing the lottery ticket for her.

The winning ticket had been purchased back in May at a Palmdale liquor store while mother and daughter were driving home together. Marquez asked her mother to pull over in order to buy a bottle of water after feeling queasy. According to Cervera “She always gets carsick.” Cervera dug in her purse searching for a dollar to give to her daughter to buy a lottery ticket for her together with the water. She recalls “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.”

After receiving an SMS from a friend with the photo of her daughter purchasing the ticket, Cervera says “I put my 99-cent glasses on, and I had to put two pairs on to see it.” Although she recognized her daughter she still couldn't read the caption. “I thought she robbed a bank because I couldn't see the words on top,” Cervera said with a laugh. “So I put on a third pair (of glasses) and it said she won. I was like, ‘No way!’”

At first, Marquez dismissed all calls and SMS texts from friends and family recognizing her in the photo. She says “My sister called at 11 o'clock at night and woke me up. She said, ‘This girl is you.’ I said, ‘No, it's not me,’ because I hadn't seen it yet.” The next morning Marquez realized that it was in fact her buying the ticket, the ticket that would help the entire family.

Cervera arrived to the Friday news conference together with her three adult children and half a dozen grandchildren. “I've got like 200 tickets laying around my house. I never check my tickets.” Cervera, who has been living on disability for 20 years, spoke about the hard times the family has been through recently when her 47-year-old son, Rudy, was killed in a motorcycle accident. “I'd give it all up to have my son here again,” she said and began to cry. She continued “My grandkids are all going to be taken care of, and my (three) daughters. I'm just so happy. I'm going to buy me a pair of Reeboks.”

Not only does she care for her entire family, she also has two adopted sons, ages 5 and 9, with developmental disabilities. Cervera said “A big portion is going to them, so that when I'm gone they'll be OK. I'm going to take them to Disneyland. I really am! And we're going to pay for everything.”

Cervera decided to take a one-time cash payment of $17.8 million, explaining: “I'm not going to be here 30 years from now.”

This story is a reminder of yet another big California win just a few months ago, in September, when Bladimir Agnite took home $52 million in the Mega Millions lotteryafter being identified by surveillance cameras in Fremont.