Mega mystery in Glenwood: Who won $118 million?
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org May 10, 2012 10:34PM
Sebastian John (center), one of the owners of the Glenwood Minuteman Citgo station, holds a check he received from Northstar Lottery for selling a $118 million Mega Millions ticket. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 12, 2012 8:19AM
In what is the center of the lottery universe this week — a clean and busy gas station in Glenwood — anxious people were happily plunking down their hard-earned cash Thursday for a chance to win a spot on Easy Street.
The Glenwood Minuteman Citgo at 18659 S. Halsted St. is where a winning Mega Millions ticket worth $118 million was sold May 4. Customers figured if it happened once, it could happen again.
“Lightning can strike twice,” said Diane Sloan, of Glenwood.
She should know. Sloan and her husband Rick, who works at the station, have won Little Lotto three times for a total of $86,000. None of those tickets, however, was purchased at the gas station.
The $118 million man or woman has yet to step forward, but there was a big winner Thursday. Lottery officials presented the station’s owner with an oversized check for $500,000, the prize for selling the winning ticket.
The real check soon will be in the hands of Sebastian John, of Tinley Park; his brother, Jose John; and their partner, Babu Vettikkattu. They’ll use the money “to pay off our debts, and some we’ll share with our (five full-time) employees,” Sebastian John said.
He and Rick Sloan hope a regular is the jackpot winner.
“Maybe someone who comes in here every morning for a newspaper and a lottery ticket,” Rick Sloan said.
The winning numbers were 4, 11, 21, 42 and 53, with 38 as the Mega Ball. Whoever won is not talking.
“Nobody has the foggiest idea who won,” Rick Sloan said.
Sloan opened the store Saturday morning and saw on the lottery computer terminal the winning ticket had been sold in Glenwood.
The town has about 9,000 residents, and the median household income from 2006-10 was $58,113, a little above the state average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The prize would be worth about $2.5 million per year for 26 years, after taxes, if taken as an annuity.
“By 6 o’clock, I had five or six phone calls from people who had gone to the lottery’s website and saw it was us who sold it,” Sloan said. “By that time, I figured it was probably true, so I called (John) and told him. I shook him up.”
The store sells about $10,000 in lottery tickets every day from clerks or four self-serve machines, John said. The store gets 5 percent of lottery sales, about $500 a day, he said.
Glancing at the machines, Catherine Filipkowski said “they have more money than my bank account.”
She once won $1,000. Her late husband won $80,000 in Little Lotto in 1997, “so I think lightning can strike twice,” she said.
She lives across the street and “almost died” when she realized she didn’t have the winning ticket.
Had she won, she’d set up a booth in the gas station and hand out $100 bills, “sob story or not,” she said.
“For one person to have that much money ...,” she said.
Most of the station’s customers live in Glenwood or neighboring towns, John said.
Prairie State College student Megan Greene, 21, of Homewood, works three temp office jobs. She could use the money. But she’s never felt the need to play the lottery.
“It’s possible now,” Greene said.
The next Mega Millions drawing is Friday. As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the estimated jackpot was $16 million, according to illinoislottery.com.
Had she won, Greene would take a vacation to Hawaii and “buy a new car. Maybe a few,” she said.
John Loster, 73, who has lived in Glenwood for 45 years, was surprised the winner has not stepped up.
“Nobody claimed it yet? I’d better go home and check the drawers,” Loster said, joking.
Craig and Sheila Kimbrough, of Glenwood, crouched over a table reserved for lottery players and scratched off a few dozen tickets. Some won. Most lost.
“We call it ‘our time’ because we’re busy with all the grandkids. We don’t drink. This is our leisure time,” Sheila said.
It’s cheaper than a casino, Craig said.
“Don’t overdo it. The way to win is spend a little, win a lot,” Craig said.
Had they won $118 million — and after Sheila picked herself up off the floor — they would get sorely needed health insurance, “make sure the kids are taken care of,” take a world cruise, help charities “and just enjoy life,” Sheila said.
The gas station is in the Illinois Lottery’s Region Six, which encompasses 1,330 retailers and sells 26 percent of all lottery tickets sold in the state, regional manager Art Diaz said.
Recalling past lottery glories, Diaz invoked the name of Michael Wittkowski, who started lottery fever in Illinois in 1984.
“He was the first big winner. He won ‘only’ $40 million,” Diaz said.
Back then, folks waited in long lines to buy tickets. Now there seems to be a buzz only over the biggest of jackpots.
Just three weeks ago, the nation was caught up in wondering which three parties would split a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot, and tiny downstate Red Bud, where one of the winning tickets was sold, was in the national spotlight.
Thursday in Glenwood, the $118 million prize got little attention other than at the gas station.
Over at Gabe’s Place, a busy restaurant in downtown Glenwood, only one customer has mentioned the winning ticket in the past week, hostess Edwiges Quiroz said.
Waitress Brandi Hamm, busy with several tables, said, “If I won, I wouldn’t be here.”
And diner Art Wasik, of Matteson, who hadn’t heard about it until a reporter told him Thursday, said he hopes the winner “is a good Christian who shares the money, but I don’t expect that.”