CNN — Richard Wahl had $22 in his pocket to buy gas, a Diet Coke and a few Mega Millions lottery tickets. Days later, he won one of the largest lottery jackpots in history.
Wahl won the $533 million Mega Millions jackpot on March 30 after playing the lottery two times. He has decided to take the cash option of $324.6 million over the annuity. After 24 percent in federal taxes and 8 percent for the state, Wahl is taking $220.7 million home, according to acting lottery executive director John White, the Associated Press reported.
“I drive past that (Mega Millions) sign every day and don’t buy,” he told reporters Friday at a press conference at the New Jersey Lottery headquarters in Trenton where he was announced as the winner.
Wahl, 47, purchased his first ticket last month just after chatting with a co-worker about retirement. He didn’t win.
A week later, he stopped at a Lukoil gas station in Riverdale, New Jersey, went inside the store and bought more tickets.
When the winning numbers were announced on Good Friday, he initially thought he had won $1 million.
“I can tell you, it didn’t sink in. It was truly amazing,” he said.
Still in shock, Wahl and his family canceled their Easter weekend plans.
“I didn’t feel comfortable taking the ticket out of the house; I didn’t feel comfortable leaving it in the house,” he said.
Wahl is a production manager at a food services company. He moved to New Jersey last year with his family from Michigan. He said he plans to help relatives, some friends and others in need with his lottery winnings.
“It’s not only life-changing money for me, but I want it to be life-changing money for others,” he said.
But he also wants to make his dream of restoring a 1963 Corvette a reality.
The prize is the fourth largest Mega Millions jackpot and the 10th largest lottery jackpot ever, according to the New Jersey Lottery.