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Record Powerball lottery jackpot claimed by 8 meat plant workers

Feb 22, 2006, 11:49 am

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The record $365 million Powerball jackpot has been claimed by a group of eight workers from a Nebraska meat processing plant.

They all work at a ConAgra ham processing plant near the U Stop convenience store where they bought the winning ticket.

It was the biggest jackpot on record for any lottery in the United States.

The winning numbers drawn Saturday were 15, 17, 43, 44 and 48, with a Powerball number of 29, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association of Des Moines, Iowa, which runs the game for the participating states.

They had the option of taking the money in one lump sum or installments over 30 years.

They chose the cash option.

The cash option gives them $177.3 million, or $124.1 million after taxes. On the installment plan, the first payment would have been $6,507,986 after taxes.

The pre-tax haul on the cash option for the group of eight would be $22,162,500. After taxes it amounts to $15.5 million each.

The eight workers' names: Quang Dao, 56; David Gehle, 53; Alain Maboussou, 26; Chasity Rutjens, 29; Robert Stewart, 30; Michael Terpstra, 47; Dung Tran, 34; and Eric Zornes, 40.

The previous U.S. lottery jackpot record was $363 million for the Big Game, the forerunner of Mega Millions. That was won by two ticketholders in Illinois and Michigan in 2000. Powerball's previous record jackpot, $340 million, was won by an Oregon family in October.

Powerball is played in 28 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The winners met the public Wednesday morning at a news conference at the Cornhusker Marriott Hotel, which is just around the corner from lottery headquarters in downtown Lincoln. Seven men and one woman pooled their money to buy the ticket.

Eight workers at a Nebraska meat processing plant have claimed the record $365 million Powerball jackpot. The seven men and one woman were introduced by Gov. Dave Heineman in Lincoln, Nebraska. They held the only ticket matching the winning numbers sold at a U-Stop convenience store in Lincoln, lottery officials said.Three of the newly-minted millionaires showed up at the news conference after working their overnight shift at local ConAgra food processing plant Cook's Food. The mood was jovial at the news conference.

Tran said he was a refugee when he arrived in the United States from Vietnam 16 years ago. He said he's been in Lincoln with his wife and children the whole time. Tran said he learned that he was a winner at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday when he called in on the Powerball hotline to learn the winning numbers. He said he tried to call his fellow winner, "but they were sleeping."

Tran wouldn't say where he hid the winning ticket until he could secure it.

"I hid it somewhere," he said, which made the gathered crowd roar.

Stewart said he isn't sure what he'll do with the money, but he's thinking strongly about quitting his job. He said he's only spent about $30 since he joined the pool of Powerball ticket buyers.

"I don't think any of us have had much sleep. We've been on the run," Stewart said, adding that they never left town.

The group choose the one-time $124.1 million lump sum option, and each took a check for $22.1 million home.

Lottery officials present the new millionaires with an oversize check for $365 million Wednesday.Zornes, who said he's been part of the Powerball pool for five years, said he has been retired for about four days from Cook's. Before that, he said, he was a second-shift maintenance mechanic, and processed hams and corned beef.

"I probably can't say the words here," Zornes said, asked what he said when he learned he was a winner. "It was party time."

Zornes said it has been a struggle to iron things out among the winners, and they've spent a lot of time avoiding the media, though, "We probably ate breakfast with some of you," Zornes said, taunting the gathered national journalists that have been tracking the winners since Saturday.

The group's attorney said he took a call from one of the winners, and all the caller would say it that he needed an agreement drawn up. He said it was hard to keep the secret once he knew that he was representing the Powerball winners.

Second Prize

Some lottery employees have worked 17-hour days since the numbers were drawn.

Seventeen co-workers from Intel Corporation in Rio Rancho, N.M., have come forward to claim the second prize from Saturday's record Powerball drawing.

The 17 are dividing a prize worth $667,142.

The normal Powerball second prize is $200,000 for matching five white balls but missing the red Powerball. When Powerball jackpots set records -- such as Saturday's $365 million prize -- a separate prize pool grows for second-prize winners.

In all, there were 42 second-prize winners across the country.

Each of the 17 workers put $5 in the office pool and received $39,243. After federal and state withholding taxes, each will take home $27,078.

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