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Lotto Winner Still Has Her Goals--Plus a BMW, Yacht and Fiance

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Times Staff Writer

When 20-year-old Christene E. Lentz of Capistrano Beach won $19.58 million in California’s Lotto game in August, the first question fired at her at a news conference was: “So, you got a boyfriend?”

Lentz laughed and answered: “I probably have a lot of boyfriends right now!”

Today, she is engaged, drives a new car, owns a 43-foot yacht and has bought a new home for her grandmother.

And that’s not all.

“The biggest change is that now I can spend money when I go shopping instead of just looking,” she said with a laugh.

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The day she struck it rich, Lentz said, she had been wondering how she would make the next $200 payment on her silver 1984 Nissan Sentra with $11 left in her checking account.

“I had made three monthly payments before it happened,” said Lentz, a Saddleback College sophomore majoring in theater arts. “The next payment I paid it off.” Now, Lentz glides around in a white BMW 325i with a black convertible top.

It was on Aug. 25 that Lentz and a Riverside truck driver split a $39-million Lotto jackpot. She will receive a $783,200 check every year for 20 years.

“I was always happy,” Lentz said last week. “Now, I’m ecstatic.”

Still living with her parents and working for her mother’s company, National Aerospace Supply in Anaheim, Lentz has received six marriage proposals--several in jest--since hitting the numbers.

But the one that counts came from her boyfriend, 19-year-old Charles Cooper of Colton, just before the Lotto numbers popped out that night in August. “If you win the lottery tonight, will you marry me?” Lentz recalls him asking.

They were engaged Oct. 2 and plan to be married July 15.

Cooper, a machinist who works for his father, has been dating Lentz off and on for about 2 1/2 years, she said. They began dating while both were high school students in Colton, where the Lentz family lived before moving to Capistrano Beach last June.

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“We had talked about marriage before,” Lentz said. “But we didn’t have the money.”

Said her mother, Joyce: “I love him. He’s every mother’s dream. I always yelled at her when they broke up.”

During the 3 weeks after she won the Lotto, Lentz received a flood of inquiries from investors and a ton of missives seeking money.

“You just kind of have to put them aside,” Lentz said. “But I read a lot of sad things. Most people are too embarrassed to ask you for money to your face.”

“Except me,” her mother said.

Lentz said one of her biggest headaches has been handling paper work now that she has a lawyer, a financial adviser and an accountant.

“I also had to prepare a will,” she said.

Besides the BMW and the yacht--which is still in Dallas at a former family getaway spot--Lentz’s major acquisitions include a Gucci purse and wallet (for $500) and lots of clothes. Her only exotic journey so far has been a trip with Cooper to visit his relatives and go sightseeing in Washington and Virginia.

“We were gone 4 days, and I missed home,” Lentz said.

She also has donated money for scholarships at Fontana Christian School, where she went to elementary school, and Colton High School. She set up a trust fund for her sister and has made a number of investments, she said.

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But Lentz said money hasn’t changed her basic goals. “I still want to be a theater arts teacher.”

She and Cooper plan to finish college and have decided they want four children. Lentz hopes to earn her teaching certificate, and Cooper wants to pursue an engineering degree.

As for Lentz’s family, they are trying to take the windfall in stride.

“I don’t expect her to support me for the rest of my life,” said her mother, who started her own company 3 years ago.

“I hope not,” Lentz said.

Her sister, Collene, said she finds all the attention embarrassing. But she doesn’t mind the money. “I still like shopping too,” she said.

And what about the Lotto? Does lightning ever strike twice?

Said Lentz: “I played last night.”

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