New Jersey

$533M Winner in New Jersey Was Only Playing Mega Millions for 2nd Time

Winner of $533M Mega Millions jackpot is Robert Wahl who has lived in New Jersey for less than a year.

What to Know

  • Forty-seven-year-old Richard Wahl, of Vernon, New Jersey, is a mega millionaire.
  • The Vernon, NJ production manager plans to retire after taking a cash payout of $220.7 million after taxes.
  • "For us the plan is to do a lot of good things with it," Wahl said.

New Jersey lottery officials have revealed who won a $533 million Mega Millions jackpot last month.

Richard Wahl, who just moved to New Jersey from Michigan for his job last July, is the winner of the biggest Mega Millions jackpot in New Jersey state history. He said he had only played Mega Millions a couple times when he struck it big.

Richard Wahl was introduced Friday during a news conference at lottery headquarters in Trenton. The 47-year-old production manager at a northern New Jersey food services facility took the cash option worth $220.7 million, after taxes.

The sole winning ticket for the March 30 jackpot was sold at a Lukoil station in Riverdale. The winning numbers were 11, 28, 31, 46, 59 and Mega Ball 1.

He described finding out he had the winning ticket late at night. He couldn't believe it.

"It was truly amazing. Some of my family members were sleeping so I didn't go and scream out. I walked upstairs. I saw my wife ... and said, 'Baby, we get to go on vacation.' She said, 'What are you talking about? Don't be an idiot.'"

He said he checked the numbers 15 times and wanted to be sure the win was for real before he told other family members.

He and his family stayed in their house all Easter weekend, nervously guarding their "life-changing" ticket.

"We cried a lot together as a family," said Wahl. "We didn't sleep that much. The nerves, the shock of everything. I don't think it's still settled in for us."

Wahl didn't want to discuss his family at the news conference, telling reporters he wanted to protect their privacy and would have preferred to stay anonymous if he had the option (New Jersey state lottery does not allow that). But he said his wife is humble and doesn't want much, and added tearfully, his voice breaking, "She's my queen, I will make sure she's taken care of." 

"Actually the weird thing is my mom actually called me before I wanted to tell her and told me 'I heard somebody in New Jersey won the lottery, was it you?' And I wasn't ready to share with her yet, so I told her, 'Absolutely not, mother.'"

Wahl says one of his dreams is to restore a 1963 Corvette, but otherwise described his family as humble and said they wanted to help people.

"For us the plan is to do a lot of good things with it," Wahl said. "It's not only life changing money for me, but I want it to be life changing money for family, friends, people in need."

They plan to hire a financial adviser and figure out what they'll do with their winnings. Wahl especially says he wants to help family and friends who need it, both in the U.S. and abroad. His wife is from Mexico, and "we really want to help out her family in Mexico," he said. 

"We're just humbled by the fact that everything's happened," he said.

Wahl said he actually went back to that same gas station when news cameras were there, after it was announced it had sold the winning ticket. He'd unknowingly walked into the media crush while he was trying to get cash from the ATM, and thought he saw the clerk give him a double look, he laughed. 

Wahl said he told some close family and friends, as well as his employer because he didn't want to leave them hanging. 

The $533 million is the annuity option, in which payments are made over 29 years. The lump-sum option totaled $324.6 million, but after 24 percent in federal taxes and 8 percent for the state, Wahl is taking $220.7 million home, according to acting lottery executive director John White.

Lottery officials say it was the fourth-largest jackpot in Mega Millions history and the largest single jackpot winning ticket ever sold in New Jersey. The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever was $656 million in 2012 and had three winning tickets -- one each in Kansas, Maryland and Illinois.

Mega Millions is played in 44 states plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The odds of winning are one in 303 million. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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