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Holdout Finally Comes Forward for His $34 Million

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Leonardo Hernandez, the elusive California Lottery winner from Santa Clarita who reportedly feared for his life if he claimed his $34-million share of last week’s huge jackpot, finally showed up Monday to register for his prize.

Hernandez, 32, bought his winning ticket at the urging of a clerk at Valencia Liquor in Newhall, just a few hours before the winning numbers were read. On Thursday, as the jubilant winners of a ticket purchased in Bakersfield and another excited ticket holder from Ventura came forward, Hernandez remained in hiding.

Lotto winners must register their winning tickets in person at a lottery office and establish that they are the actual ticket owner, with no other claimants.

“He’s scared,” Manhye Hahn, owner of Valencia Liquor, said at the time. “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.”

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So he played a guessing game with lottery officials in Van Nuys who waited for him to show up Friday to claim his winnings. Then they waited some more on Monday. Finally, late in the day, Hernandez showed up, they said.

He requested to lottery officials they not release any information about him, said Cathy Doyle Johnston, a California Lottery spokeswoman. She said she could reveal only Hernandez’s name, where he purchased his ticket and how much he won.

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Hernandez opted for the lottery’s new lump-sum payment and will net $16.9 million before federal taxes of about 40%. Manhye and Hosup Hahn, who own Valencia Liquor, will receive roughly $170,000, or one-half of 1% of the ticket’s value.

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Last Wednesday’s drawing of $104 million was the second-biggest jackpot in state history. In 1991, a group of 30 split $118 million after purchasing their ticket in Hawthorne.


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