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‘Lucky 13' Strike It Really Rich With Powerball Ticket

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A tight-knit fraternity of gambling Ohio machinists, who dryly called themselves “The Lucky 13" during a decade spent purchasing losing lottery ticket after losing lottery ticket, finally have hit the biggest jackpot of all.

The members of the blue-collar club from the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Westerville held the only winning ticket to Wednesday night’s multi-state Powerball drawing, which reached a mind-numbing $295.7 million, their just-hired attorney said.

Having chosen in advance to take their money in a single lump-sum rather than in installments over 25 years, the group will divvy up $161.5 million, or $12.43 million apiece before taxes, if their ticket is verified as the winner.

The sixth, so-called “Powerball,” number that sealed their win: 13.

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“They’re stunned,” said Barb Palmer, a manager at Automation Tooling Systems who was stuck answering phones on Thursday as her newly wealthy co-workers hunkered down after a sleepless night to evade television cameras and contemplate their riches. “It’s that same look in everyone’s eyes--that deer-in-the-headlights look.”

The group, which bought $130 worth of tickets, placed the winning stub in a safe-deposit box first thing Thursday morning, said their attorney, Larry Sturtz. It was to be transported to Indiana lottery headquarters in Indianapolis, via armored car.

At least one member of the reclusive group--all of whom have taken an oath promising never to reveal the identities of the others, according to Sturtz--would have to appear in Indianapolis as well, within 180 days, Powerball officials said.

John Jarrell was the only one of the 13 men to identify himself on Thursday. “It took a long time to believe we actually hit it,” he said. “You go from totally excited to scared to death.”

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Jarrell and his wife, Sandy, said they and their three children were already making a wish list. Tops on Sandy’s list was a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to match John’s.

Despite a long history of very little payoff, “The Lucky 13" has been an extraordinarily exclusive group, with far more applicants than openings.

“If somebody leaves, you can get in the group,” Palmer said. “Or if somebody dies, you can get in the group. Otherwise, there are no openings.”

Palmer ought to know. She’s been turned away more than once.

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Over the years, the members have lost the majority of their gambling dollars--earned by fabricating steel parts and sweating over metal lathes--to the more modest Hoosier Lottery, co-workers said. But when Saturday’s drawing for the multi-state game failed to produce a millionaire and the pot began to look like the Gross National Product of Lichtenstein, the group, as well as millions of people across the country, became enthralled.

Before the drawing at 10:59 p.m. Wednesday, hopeful gamblers drove for hours to stand in line for hours to buy tickets in one of the 20 states and the District of Columbia where the game is played. In four days, they plopped down $211 million.

As the pot passed the previous Powerball record of $195 million, won by a Streamwood, Ill., couple in May, the 13 machinists huddled. They were prepared to cross state lines, they decided, in their ongoing quest for big money.

One of the members--unidentified, naturally--headed west on Interstate 70. He crossed into Indiana after about 100 miles and stopped at the first place he found with Powerball tickets to sell, a Speedway gas station in the border town of Richmond.

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He laid out $130--$10 from each member of the group.

The chances they would win were 80 million to 1.

Shortly after the drawing Wednesday night, a woman who identified herself to television crews as a neighbor of one of the winners said she heard screaming, loud screaming. She was worried.

“We thought somebody was hurt,” she said.

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Nope, rich.


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