Surveillance photo flushes out forgetful California lottery winner
By Dana Feldman
SAN BERNARDINO, California (Reuters) - The belatedly crowned winner of a $23 million California lottery jackpot says she had stuffed the lucky ticket in her car and left it there forgotten for months, until a surveillance camera photo of the ticket's purchase surfaced on the Internet.
Only when she recognized her daughter in the picture, which state lottery officials had publicly circulated in a desperate attempt to locate the missing winner, did Julie Cervera, 69, realize to her amazement that she was a multimillionaire.
For Cervera, a resident of the high-desert town of Victorville who has been on disability for 20 years and described herself as broke, the unexpected turn of fortune could not have come at a more opportune time.
"I have maybe a dollar in my pocket, they just shut off my cable, my electric bill is $600 and my (bank) account is also overdrawn," Cervera told reporters on Friday, a day after coming forward to claim her prize.
The ticket, purchased May 30 for Cervera by her adult daughter in a liquor store in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, was due to expire at the end of this month.
State lottery officials said Cervera's jackpot marks only the second time they have been forced to release a store surveillance photo to track down a winner.
The image was pinpointed using electronic records the California Lottery system electronically keeps on the time and place of its ticket sales. It was released earlier this week to news organizations.
In the California SuperLotto Plus, the contest Cervera played in, winners have six months from the date of purchase to claim their prize. Continued...