The belatedly crowned winner of a $23 million California lottery jackpot says she had stuffed the lucky ticket in her car and left it there forgotten for months, until a surveillance camera photo of the ticket’s purchase surfaced on the Internet.
Only when she recognized her daughter in the picture, which state lottery officials had publicly circulated in a desperate attempt to locate the missing winner, did Julie Cervera, 69, realize to her amazement that she was a multimillionaire.
For Cervera, a resident of the high-desert town of Victorville who has been on disability for 20 years and described herself as broke, the unexpected turn of fortune could not have come at a more opportune time.
“I have maybe a dollar in my pocket, they just shut off my cable, my electric bill is $600 and my (bank) account is also overdrawn,” Cervera told reporters on Friday, a day after coming forward to claim her prize.
The ticket, purchased May 30 for Cervera by her adult daughter in a liquor store in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, was due to expire at the end of this month.
State lottery officials said Cervera’s jackpot marks only the second time they have been forced to release a store surveillance photo to track down a winner…
It was Cervera’s daughter, Charliena, who was captured in the photo making the purchase with a dollar bill that Cervera said she had scrounged from her purse. Afterward, Cervera said, she stashed the ticket into the console of her car and never bothered to check it against the winning numbers announced later.
On Thursday of this week, another daughter texted her mother the surveillance photo of Charliena.
“I put on my 99-cent glasses, I saw it, and I thought she (Charliena) robbed a bank,” Cervera said, explaining that she initially misunderstood the meaning and purpose of the photo. It took a few moments for it to dawn on her that she had won a $23 million lottery drawing.
Great to see one of these windfall events land in the lap of someone who really needs some money.