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$23-million Lottery winner was down to last few dollars

November 3, 2012 |  8:13 am

The winner of of a $23-million Super Lotto Plus jackpot had no idea she had won. Credit: California Lottery.

This post has been corrected. See note below.

A woman who had a $23-million Super Lotto Plus ticket gathering dust inside a glove compartment claimed it five months later -- just before the deadline came.

Julie Cervera told reporters at a news conference Friday that she was in financial straits when she found the ticket. Now, she plans to help her family with the winnings.

With only 25 days left to claim a life-changing prize, Cervera realized she had the ticket when she a video surveilance photo of her daughter, Charliena Marquez, in a newspaper story. Her daughter had purchased the lottery ticket for her mother.

Lotto officials had released an image taken from surveillance video at Michael's Market & Liquor in Palmdale, where the winning ticket was purchased.

The woman’s ticket was set to expire Nov. 26 and was turned in Thursday to the California Lottery’s Inland Empire office, said spokesman Elias Dominguez. 

While it’s unusual for a major jackpot to go unclaimed, Dominguez said that a few years ago a $12-million winning ticket bought in Barstow was never turned in. Earlier this year, one of 29 winners who matched five of six numbers in a record-setting Mega Million jackpot never claimed the $227,955 prize.

And in August, Lotto officials went five months without hearing from the winner of a $52-million jackpot, Dominguez said.

That’s the first time the California Lottery sent investigators to a retailer to obtain surveillance video, Dominguez said. The winner eventually came forward, so Lotto officials tried the same strategy to locate the Palmdale winner.  

[For the record, Saturday, 11:30 a.m.: This post initially stated that Julie Cervera realized she was the winner of the $23 million Super Lotto Plus contest when she saw a surveillance photo of herself in a newspaper story. The photo is actually of Cervera’s daughter, Charliena Marquez, who purchased the ticket for her mother at a liquor store in Palmdale.]

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— Matt Stevens

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Photo: A still from in-store video of the woman who bought a $23-million Super Lotto Plus ticket. Credit: California Lottery.

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