Ricardo Cerezo was having a terrible year. His 14-year-old daughter had died last August of a sudden illness. He was facing foreclosure on the house he shared with his wife and two other children in Geneva, Ill., just outside of Chicago. Then, in a swift reversal of fortune, he discovered that a lottery ticket he bought three months ago was worth $4.85 million.
With Saturday night’s admittedly much larger $590 million Powerball jackpot still unclaimed as of early Monday morning, here’s hoping it doesn’t take the winner as long to realize the good news as it took Cerezo. According to the Chicago Tribune, Cerezo’s wife was cleaning the kitchen in early May when she asked him to empty a glass cookie jar that the couple used to stash lottery tickets. They hadn’t checked the jar in months. “It was either take them, get them checked, or she was going to trash them that night,” he told the newspaper.
So Cerezo, who works as a management consultant, took the tickets to a nearby 7-Eleven store in Aurora to scan them for possible wins. The first nine were duds, but Cerezo was encouraged when the tenth one yielded $3, according to the Beacon-News. When he inserted his last ticket in the scanner, he got the message “file a claim.”
After going online to check the numbers, Cerezo discovered that the ticket matched the winning combination from a drawing held on February 2. He called in sick at work the next day and drove to Chicago, where lottery officials told him the ticket was worth $4.85 million. The odds of matching all six numbers in Illinois’ Quick Pick drawing are 1 in 10,179,260.
While Cerezo’s windfall is just a fraction of last Saturday’s Powerball jackpot, it’s still a small fortune. “It couldn’t have happened at a better time. I just thought, ‘This is how God works,’” Cerezo told reporters. In February, a judge had told him that he would have a few more months to find a new home for his family before they would be evicted. At the time, the winning ticket had already been sitting in the family cookie jar for more than a week. Cerezo’s daughter, Savannah, had bought the jar for him a few months before she died last August.