A Geneva man who says he had a mountain of bills and was facing eviction is now a multimillionaire thanks to a lottery ticket he bought months ago in Aurora and only recently found in a cookie jar in his kitchen.
On Wednesday, the Illinois Lottery handed Ricardo Cerezo of Geneva a large commemorative check for $4.85 million -- the result of matching all six numbers in the Feb. 2 Lotto drawing.
Cerezo says his wife found 11 tickets while cleaning the kitchen and told him to see if any were worth anything. Cerezo had bought the Quick Pick ticket at an area convenience store and took them to a nearby gas station to scan them.
The first seven tickets he scanned were not winners, but when he placed the eighth ticket under the scanner, the message "File a claim" appeared, according to a news release from the Illinois Lottery.
"I thought I had probably won about $600," he said. From there, he double checked the winning numbers on illinoislottery.com and was shocked to see that his prize amount was not $600, but rather $4.85 million, the news release said.
The prize is nearly $3.4 million after taxes. Cerezo and his wife plan to pay bills, pay off their mortgage and share some of their winnings with their son and daughter, according to the news release. They also plan to contribute to their church and favorite charities. Their jackpot is nearly $3.4 million after taxes.
"It is very important to us that we help others with this money," Cerezo said.
Cerezo offered this advice for other Lottery players: "Play within your means, and when you buy a ticket believe that you can win. And check your old tickets!"
The Illinois Lottery said the winning ticket was a Quick Pick purchased at the 7-Eleven at 2411 W. Sullivan Road in Aurora. The store received a bonus of $48,500.