By David Sharpe
The winner of a $1.35 billion Mega Millions jackpot — the fourth largest in U.S. history — has come forward to collect the prize, state officials said Wednesday.
The winner had been a mystery, and remains a mystery.
The Maine State Lottery said the winner chose to remain anonymous and collect the cash option through a limited liability company, LaKoma Island Investments LLC, instead of receiving the full amount in payments over time.
“The winner is thoughtfully considering the best uses of the life-changing prize," a representative said in a statement.
By choosing the cash option, the winner will receive a one-time, lump-sum payment of $723,564,144 before taxes, officials said.
The winner had the option of coming forward in person with the winning ticket or remaining anonymous through a trust, lottery officials said.
The winning ticket was validated when a representative came to the lottery headquarters in Augusta on Friday, and the wire transfer of the money will take place before the end of the week, said Michael Boardman, deputy director of Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operation.
“I understand why someone would want to remain anonymous with this kind of money. We wish them well and hope they do good things with it,” he said.
The winning ticket for the Jan. 13 drawing was purchased at Hometown Gas & Grill in Lebanon, which is located on a busy highway in a small town near the New Hampshire border.
Owner Fred Cotreau said he had no idea who held the winning ticket.
“We're going to wait and see if it's a local. Who knows? Sometimes they come to the store and say thank you, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” said Cotreau, who shared half of the store's proceeds of $50,000 for selling the winning ticket with his employees.
If the winner had chosen to accept the full amount, then there would've been 30 payments over 29 years, Boardman said.
By accepting the cash payout, the winner will receive more than $498 million after taxes, Boardman said. Taxes in the amount of $173.6 million will go to federal government and $51 million to the state, he said. The limited liability company that will receive the money was incorporated in Las Vegas, he said.
The winner overcame steep odds of 1 in 302.6 million, in the drawing on Friday the 13th, no less. It was the first Maine winner for the Mega Mills jackpot, which is played in 45 states as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.