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Car salesmen lottery pool wins $16 million jackpot

Aug 9, 2005, 1:11 pm

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Illinois Lottery

Dan Fontana was set to buy tickets for Saturday's $16 million Illinois Lotto drawing with some friends from work but pulled out at the last minute.

Bad move. Really bad move.

Four of his fellow salesmen at an Oak Lawn auto dealership won the Lotto jackpot. They soon may no longer be his co-workers.

"I came to work and heard about it. After that, I just kind of wanted to go home," Fontana said.

The winners are Jeton Asani, 42, of Orland Park; Arben Gashi, 29, of Worth; his brother Nick Gashi, 28, of Bridgeview; and Chris Matyskiel, 30, of Chicago.

They filed the winning ticket Monday with the Illinois Lottery, opting for a lump-sum payment that's estimated at $1.6 million each after taxes.

Earlier Monday, they quit their jobs at the Haggerty Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealership, general manager Bill Haggerty said.

"I got here this morning, and they all had their keys in hand and their offices cleaned out," he said.

However, by Monday evening all four said they would wait a couple of weeks before deciding whether to continue working.

"I guess I'll just take a couple weeks off," Matyskiel said. "What else am I going to do?"

Before any of them jet off on an extravagant vacation, some shut-eye is in order.

"Since Saturday, I could only sleep for a couple of hours," Asani said.

Also Monday, Matyskiel and Nick Gashi bought new vehicles from the dealership — a Buick LaCrosse by Matyskiel and a GMC Denali by Gashi.

The four men had never pooled their money to buy lottery tickets, but Asani, Nick Gashi and Matyskiel decided last week to do so for Saturday's big prize.

They offered other Haggerty employees a chance to join the pool, with each person having to buy $50 in tickets. The only taker was Gashi's brother.

"Who knows if we'd have won with extra people," Asani said. "I feel bad for them, but then more people would mean less money for me."

The ticket was purchased from Oak Lawn Discount Tobacco, 9241 Cicero Ave., on Saturday, said the manager of the store, who identified himself only as Rod. The four winners returned Monday about 8 a.m., he said.

"They were elated, just jumping for joy," he said.

Meanwhile, there were some sullen faces at the Haggerty dealership Monday. While most employees seemed happy for their co-workers, they also couldn't help thinking about what might have been. A few salesmen joked about people being on "suicide watch."

One salesman had $20 when the offer was presented and had to ask for the other $30 from his girlfriend, Haggerty said. She wouldn't give him the money, he said.

Others, such as salesman Patrick Cunningham, just thought the $50 entry fee was too steep. He bought $5 worth of Lotto tickets at the same store, about 15 minutes after the winners.

"Yeah, I lost a little sleep over this," Cunningham said.

Haggerty salesman Sam Shalabi said he didn't enter because he doesn't gamble. Even after seeing his co-workers win, he doesn't plan on becoming a lottery regular.

"It happens once in a lifetime," he said. "It's not going to help to start buying tickets now."

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