BALTIMORE (Reuters) - An elementary school teacher, a special education teacher and another public school worker in Maryland shared one of three winning tickets for a $656 million lottery, the richest jackpot in U.S. history, lottery officials said on Tuesday.
The Maryland winners, who call themselves “The Three Amigos,” each will take home $34.997 million from the Mega Millions lottery after taxes.
They chose to remain anonymous - as Maryland law allows them to do - but were described as a woman in her 20s, a man in his 40s and another woman in her 50s, lottery officials said.
Two other winning tickets were sold in Kansas, where a winner came forward, and Illinois, where a winner has not yet surfaced.
“If it can’t be you these are precisely the people that you would want to see win the lottery,” Maryland Lottery director Stephen Martino said at a news conference.
“They were modest, they were, I think, humbled by this stroke of luck that they have received,” he said. “I think at times they were a bit overwhelmed.”
All three hold down multiple jobs and plan to return to work this week, lottery officials said.
The three lucky Maryland players invested $20 each to play the $1 game a total of 60 times at three different locations. It was the first time they had played the game together.
The youngest of the group held onto the tickets and checked them immediately after the late night drawing on March 30.
“I had all 60 tickets spread across my floor,” she is quoted as saying in a lottery press release. “Once I realized one was a winner, I called my two friends right away.”
The older woman had forgotten about the drawing and fallen asleep, only to be awakened by her friend’s persistent phone call advising, “Get dressed. We’re coming over right now.”
Together, they decided to make copies of the ticket, sign the copies and then put the winning ticket in a family safe.
“At 1 a.m., I took the ticket and drove to my mother’s house it put it in her safe,” one of the unidentified winners said.
After striking it rich on March 30, they remained silent for a week while a bizarre story surfaced of a McDonald’s worker and mother of seven who initially claimed she had the winning ticket but then said she lost it.
The real winners came forward on Monday with their financial advisor but said they wished to remain anonymous.
“I watched coverage of the jackpot win on television all week, just so I could listen to the financial advice the professionals were offering,” said one of the winning women.
Their windfall will be used to pay for dreams as exotic as a backpacking trip through Europe and a wine country tour in Italy and as practical as new homes and a college education for their children, lottery officials said. All said they would invest some of the money.
Three winning tickets were sold for the record U.S. $656 million jackpot. L ike Maryland’s “Three Amigos,” the Kansas winner also has asked to remain anonymous and officials declined to give details of the winner’s gender, age, occupation or hometown.
The jackpot will be split evenly among the holders of the three tickets. Each winning ticket is worth a lump sum of about $105 million, or smaller payments spread out over 26 years.
The state of Maryland reaped about $13 million in revenue from the winning ticket, lottery officials said.
“I hope that some of the money goes to public education,” the school teacher turned multi-millionaire said in the press release.
Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Bill Trott