Anaheim Man’s Big Spin Nets $1 Million

Times Staff Writer

When Jose Alvarez of Anaheim stepped up to spin the state lottery’s Wheel of Fortune on Saturday, he had all the angles covered. There was a picture of St. Joseph in one pocket, a four-leaf clover in another, a good-luck tie tack from his mother and a “Think God” pin on his lapel.

His preparation paid off--handsomely. The 31-year-old garment worker became one of three lucky Californians on Saturday who won $1 million each in the lottery’s “Big Spin” contest.

Alvarez will receive $40,000 a year for 20 years. The rest, $10,000 a year, will be deducted for federal taxes.


Lucky as he was, Alvarez still couldn’t break a seven-week drought for the game’s grand prize of more than $10 million during his turn at the wheel. But when the white rubber ball fell into the $1-million slot, who felt like quibbling?

“If I would have got the $10 million, I would be happy as right now,” California’s newest millionaire said.

The father of four young children, Alvarez said he would use the money to “secure” his children’s education. After that, he said, he had no immediate plans.

“Forty thousand dollars,” said Alvarez, who emigrated from Cuba 19 years ago. “You spend it real fast. I only make half of that a year.”

The good-natured, soft-spoken Alvarez runs a computer at a Catalina Swimwear plant in the City of Commerce. He said his job is to arrange different swimming suit patterns “like a puzzle” over large pieces of cloth to reduce the waste of material during the manufacturing process.

It isn’t likely that he will take an early retirement. “I cannot quit working,” he said. “I’m a person that . . . cannot just sit down.”

For Alvarez, the road to instant wealth began on April 14 when he stopped at a gas station. He had just returned from a vacation in Sonora, Mexico, and he had only $15 in his pocket.

“I needed to put $10 of gas in the car,” he said. “But I just put $7 in. I bought three tickets, and the third ticket was my entry.”