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Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton

The $5.9M Plan: Buy House, Visit Puerto Rico


July 31, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton. All rights reserved. 

BINGHAMTON -- Jesus Lopez wants to bring his relatives from his native Puerto Rico to Binghamton and spend some time with them. With his lottery winnings, he can afford to bring about 40,000 of them.

Lopez, the latest Broome County resident to become a lottery millionaire, won the $11 million prize in the July 9 Lotto drawing. He matched all six numbers, and was the only one in the state to win the prize.

Lopez is surprised by all of the attention he has received. No one would have been able to tell the man dressed in khakis and a striped shirt Wednesday was a millionaire.

"Right now, I'm very confused and very nervous," Lopez said. "I want things to calm down before I decide what to do."

Lopez is the New York Lottery's 1,670th millionaire, and the 11th lottery millionaire from Broome County. His first reaction was to visit friends with the news.

"He couldn't believe it. He showed me the ticket so I could confirm it," said Cathy Sostre, 30, of Binghamton. "He looked a little pale and he kept saying, 'Are you sure? Are you sure?'"

Lopez opted to take home the prize in one lump-sum payment. His check for $5,920,900, the estimated present cash value of the advertised amount, was presented to him Wednesday by lottery officials at the store where he bought the ticket -- The X-Tra Mart at 227 Court St. in Binghamton.

Lopez bought a $1 Quick Pick ticket, where a computer chooses the numbers instead of the customer. Lopez's odds of winning the big prize were 1 in 22.5 million, New York Lottery Communications Director Carolyn M. Hapeman said.

Lopez, who came to the United States from Puerto Rico at age 12, lived in Monticello before moving to Binghamton about 15 years ago. He hopes to buy a house in the area and move out of his apartment.

Travel plans include a trip to Puerto Rico in addition to bringing some of his family members to the country. His 1974 Chevy Nova serves him just fine, he said, and he has no plans to buy a Lamborghini, though he can afford 20 of them if he so chooses.

One of his charitable ideas is to set up a community food bank through his church, though nothing is definite, he said. Lopez has informed the county of his winnings and got himself off Medicaid after he won.

Lopez used to work at the Ponderosa Steak House on Upper Front Street in Chenango. Though he is unemployed now, he said he still plans to find a job.

"I get bored if I don't work," he said. "I've been working since age 14."

Lopez is a regular at the X-Tra Mart, manager Ed Piccirillo said. When Lopez walked into the store July 10, he did not know that he had won. Only after Piccirillo put the numbers on a board in the store, as he usually does, did Lopez match the numbers.

Lopez usually catches the results on television at night, but he missed it that day.

"I put my arm around him and said congratulations," Piccirillo said. "He's a faithful Lotto player."

Lottery retailers don't get any money for having a lottery winner, except in the Mega Millions game, Hapeman said.

Friends of Lopez said that, given his circumstances, he deserved his prize.

"It's good that it happened to him," said Elsie Agron, 62, of Binghamton. "He had no job, nothing."

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