Advertisement

$34-Million Lotto Winner Still a Mystery

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The elusive winner of a $34-million share of Wednesday night’s Super Lotto has yet to claim his prize because he fears for his life in the limelight that goes with being a jackpot winner, according to the store owner who sold him the winning ticket.

“He’s scared,” said Manhye Hahn, owner of Valencia Liquor in Santa Clarita. “He is a young guy and he’s scared that somebody wants to get the money and kill him. He doesn’t want to show up in public.”

Hahn said the winner’s true first name is Leonardo and that he is 32 and single. Television news crews caught on camera Thursday night a man who came to have the ticket verified at the liquor store on Lyons Avenue in Newhall, and who then quickly left.

He would give his name only as Sal and was presumed to be the absent winner.

Advertisement

But on Friday, Hahn said Sal was the brother-in-law of the real winner, who she knows only as Leonardo. She said Leonardo sometimes comes to the store to buy tickets and that the winning ticket was among $5 worth of computer-generated quick picks he had purchased at her store.

The other two winners--Yolanda Starr of Ventura and a syndicate of 22 people in Bakersfield--have long since registered their tickets and basked in instant fame.

The winning ticket is good for $34 million--a third of the $104-million jackpot--paid out over 26 years. Starr and the Bakersfield group are taking their payoffs in reduced lump sums, netting $16.9 million each before taxes.

But lottery officials Friday were still trying to make contact with the holder of the ticket sold at Valencia Liquor.

Advertisement

Lottery official Uly Carter was in the lottery’s Van Nuys office Friday waiting after Carter said he had spoken with a clerk at Valencia Liquor who said the store owners and the winner would appear at the Van Nuys office at 3 p.m.

But none of them had appeared when the office closed for the weekend at 5 p.m.

“He’s hiding, he really doesn’t want to come forward with the media,” Carter said. “I don’t know really what to say about this character.”

Carter said when a group of 30 people won $118 million--the California Lottery’s biggest-ever jackpot--after purchasing a ticket from the famed Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne in 1991, they were in his office before 9 a.m. the next day.

Advertisement

“That’s the normal procedure,” he said.

Winners almost always show up before noon the day after the jackpot, Carter said. In many cases the big winners are too afraid to hold onto a ticket for fear they will somehow lose it or that it will be destroyed. Carter said he knows of people who have stored their tickets in the freezer, on the theory that it would be the last place a burglar would look.

“A large winner . . . is very happy, very elated to come in,” Carter said. “I don’t have a good feeling about this at all,” he said.

He wondered if the no-show winner was just “playing a prank” without actually having won.

Advertisement

But Hahn said the ticket was checked on the store’s Lotto computer, which confirmed it is the winner.

Norma Minas, a spokeswoman for the California Lottery, said as far as lottery officials are concerned, there is no winner yet for the last one-third of the big jackpot.

Winning tickets are not deemed valid until their holders come to the lottery office, where officials can then determine whether they are the correct ticket-holders and that there is no dispute over the ticket.

“I guess the guy is just really shy and does not know what to do,” Minas said. “It’s not bizarre . . . every now and then you get a camera-shy winner and they don’t want that attention.”

Advertisement


Advertisement
Advertisement