A Chicago-area man is thankful he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar — it turned him into a millionaire.
Ricardo Cerezo's wife said she wanted to throw out a host of old lottery tickets that the family had stashed away in a cookie jar, and told her husband to check their value before he trashed them. Cerezo drove to a nearby gas station to see if he had a winner among the months-worth of unchecked tickets.
"The last ticket said, 'file a claim.' Not a congratulations, not an amount, just said 'file a claim," Cerezo said. Intrigued, he contacted the Illinois Lottery.
The ticket, which he bought in February, turned out to be worth a cool $4.85 million.
The winning ticket couldn't have come at a better time for the family. Cerezo's home in Geneva, Ill. was facing pending foreclosure, and the family was reeling from the loss of his 14-year-old daughter Savannah, who died as a result of a series of seizures.
Savannah had bought the cookie jar for her father a few months before she died on August 12, 2012. The family kept the lotto tickets and some of their family keepsakes in that cookie jar.
The windfall, however, came with a bit of melancholy.
"The honest first reaction was mammoth regret. Regret because our youngest wasn't here to enjoy this," Cerezo said.
But now he says he's able to find peace, knowing this was an incredible gift from his daughter.
The family plans to keep working to pay off their mortgage, pay for college and donate a portion of the money to charity and their church.