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$23M Super Lotto Plus winner comes forward 5 months after winning

November 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Julie Cervera's first thought after viewing a surveillance photo of her daughter Charliean Marquez was not a positive one.

"I thought she robbed a bank," said Cervera during a Friday news conference.

Lottery officials frantically released the photo hoping to identity the then-unknown woman who purchased a $23 million Super Lotto winning ticket back in May.

Time was running out for the mystery woman to claim her prize.

As it turns out, Marquez had bought the ticket for her mother after stopping in at a Palmdale liquor store for a bottle of water.

"I got car sick, and I was like mom, 'Can you pull over? I don't feel good. I need to grab some water,' so we did," said Marquez.

Cervera asked her daughter to buy her a lottery ticket. Marquez initially refused, but changed her mind once her mom started digging in her purse for a dollar.

"I was like, OK, I will get you a lottery ticket," said Marquez.

The 69-year-old says she stashed the ticket in her car and forgot about it, which is what took her so long in coming forward.

"She never throw those tickets away. I knew she'd find it," said Marquez.

Cervera's second thought after learning she had won was that it was all a prank. She will be taking a lump sum worth $17.8 million. She says she will use the money to help her adult children care for her grandchildren.

"I have two special children in my life that I adopted as a widow," said Cervera. "A big portion is going to them so when I am gone they'll be OK."

The money comes at a very good time. Cervera was down to her last dollar, and her cable had just been turned off. Now a multi-millionaire, her first major purchase will be a modest pair of Reebok shoes and a trip.

"I am taking my boys to Disneyland, I really am, and we're going to pay for everything," said Cervera.

Cervera claimed her prize in the nick of time. Had she come forward after Nov. 26, the winning ticket would have expired, and the money would have gone to California schools.

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