Always check those tickets!

Manhattan man nearly tosses $1,000,000 Mega Millions winner

RELEASE DATE: 7/6/2017

The passenger seat of Wenceslao Leiva-Mena’s car is littered with unchecked Lottery tickets. At least it was, until the 48-year-old fleet manager’s mother told him to clean it up and offered to look through the tickets before he threw them all out.
 
“I was on the verge of throwing everything away” said Leiva-Mena, originally from Honduras. “I gave the tickets to my mother and she went through them one by one and found this Mega Millions ticket from last year.”
 
The ticket was for the Mega Millions drawing of September 9, 2016. The winning numbers for that drawing were: 01-34-43-44-63 and Mega Ball 11. Leiva-Mena said he was driving his cleaned up car when his mom called to say she found a ticket worth $1,000,000 in the stack he gave her.

“I hung up on her because I thought she was crazy. I called her back and hung up again. By the third call, she convinced me to come home and look at the ticket. After looking at the numbers, I turned hot and cold and started doing my happy dance.”

The married father of three and grandfather of four said his habit of purchasing Lottery tickets only to toss them in his car and forget about them was a result of negative thinking. “I used to think, ‘I’m never going to win.’ I never believed in luck before today,” he said.

When asked what he would say to another player with a similar habit of not checking tickets he said emphatically, “You got to start taking care of those tickets! Who knows how much money I threw away before today.”

Leiva-Mena will receive his prize as a one-time lump-sum payment, netting him $623,040 after required withholdings. His initial plans for the money include sending his mother on a vacation of her choosing. As for long term plans, “I will continue working with the goal of starting my own businesses,” he said. “I’d like to open a parking lot and a taco shop, but right now, I just want to see the money.”

The New York Lottery contributed $1,303,190,659 in Lottery Aid to Education to school districts across the five boroughs during fiscal year 2016-2017.

About the New York Lottery

The New York Lottery continues to be North America’s largest and most profitable Lottery, contributing $3.27 billion in fiscal year 2016-2017 to help support education in New York State. The Lottery’s contribution represents approximately 14 percent of total state education aid to local school districts.

New York Lottery revenue is distributed to local school districts by the same statutory formula used to distribute other state aid to education. It takes into account both a school district’s size and its income level; larger, lower-income school districts receive proportionately larger shares of Lottery school funding.

Media contact: New York Lottery Communications Office, (518) 388-3415