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South Carolina lottery winner claims record $877 million cash prize

(Reuters) – The anonymous sole winner of a $1.5 billion U.S. Mega Millions drawing last fall has come forward to claim the jackpot, choosing to collect a record one-time cash sum of more than $877 million, South Carolina’s lottery commission said on Monday.

The winning Quick Pick Mega Millions ticket for the Oct. 23 drawing was purchased at a KC Mart convenience store in Simpsonville, South Carolina, officials said.

The victorious player has opted not to be publicly identified, with lottery officials describing the winner only as a “South Carolinian.”

But in a fortuitous gesture recounted by lottery officials, the lucky contestant had allowed a fellow customer at the KC Mart to jump ahead in line to buy a ticket just before the winning ticket was sold.

“A simple act of kindness led to an amazing outcome,” at the commission said in a statement announcing that a winner had come forward.

The buyer of the winning ticket beat the odds of 1 in 303 million to win the drawing for a grand prize of $1.537 billion, just short of a word record Powerball jackpot of $1.586 billion in January 2016.

But the cash option payment chosen by the South Carolina Mega Millions winner amounts to a lump-sum total of $877,784,124 – the largest jackpot payout to a single winner in U.S. history, the state lottery commission said.

The winner could otherwise have elected to accept the full amount of the jackpot paid out in installments over 29 years.

The KC Mart in Simpsonville will receive a $50,000 prize for selling the claimed lucky ticket, and the state of South Carolina stands to collect $61 million in income taxes from the winner.

The triumphant Mega Millions contender has retained a New York lawyer, Jason Kurland, who specializes in representing lottery winners, and a news conference is to be held following completion of the payment process in the near future, the commission said. Kurland could not immediately be reached for comment.

In the four days leading up to the drawing, about 370 million of the $2 Mega Millions tickets were sold in 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In South Carolina, state lawmakers have appropriated more than $5.4 billion in lottery proceeds for education since its inception there in 2002.

Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Alistair Bell

The anonymous sole winner of a $1.5 billion U.S. Mega Millions drawing last fall has come forward to claim the jackpot, choosing to collect a record one-time cash sum of more than $877 million, South Carolina's lottery commission said on Monday.

Winner of $1.5 Billion Lottery Comes Forward (Well, Sort of. Through a Lawyer.)

An anonymous person in South Carolina finally claimed the record-setting prize from October’s $1.54 billion Mega Millions jackpot, opting to collect a one-time lump sum of $877,784,124.

The state’s lottery commission announced on Monday that the person had stepped forward, ending questions about why, five months after the winning numbers were announced, no one had claimed the money. It was the largest payout to a single lottery winner in United States history.

The winner had until April 19 to claim the money.

Winning the lottery comes with a long list of difficult decisions, which may explain the delay in making the claim. Thus far, the winner has followed the typical playbook to minimize or avoid potential complications: The person has stayed anonymous, and has gotten help.

The winner retained Jason M. Kurland, a New York lawyer who has branded himself the “Lottery Lawyer” after representing several high-profile winners. In October, Mr. Kurland told The New York Times that the biggest challenge is making sure the windfall does not ruin personal relationships.

“It’s natural there’s going to be a strain,” Mr. Kurland said. “It depends on how strong your relationships are before the lottery. If you’re really close with someone and they feel they deserve a gift, it’s really difficult. It’s one of the things winners are freaked out about when they come to me.”

The winner was fortunate to be a resident of South Carolina, one of a handful of states where winners are allowed to remain anonymous. In other states, winners have to sit through a news conference, and the publicity can attract all varieties of vultures who would look to take advantage.

The winning $2 ticket — 5, 28, 62, 65, 70; and the Mega Ball: 5 — was sold at a convenience store, KC Mart No. 7, in Simpsonville. The store’s owner, C.J. Patel, will receive $50,000.

The winner had about a 1 in 302 million shot to get it right.

The South Carolina Education Lottery Commission said in a statement that the winner “marvels at how every decision made that day brought the winner to the store, at that very moment, to make the Quick Pick Mega Millions lottery ticket purchase.” The winner had allowed another customer to make a ticket purchase in front of him or her in line, the commission said.

“A simple act of kindness led to an amazing outcome,” it said.

Lottery profits support higher education, scholarships, K-12 programs and community education programs, the lottery commission said. South Carolina will receive about $61 million in income taxes from the winner.

The winner chose the smaller lump sum over an annuity, which would have paid out the full $1.54 billion in smaller payments over 30 years. Most people take the one-time cash payment, but it is not an easy decision.

The winner, who has retained a lawyer who calls himself the “Lottery Lawyer,” bought the ticket in South Carolina, one of a few states where winners may remain anonymous. ]]>