An Army combat veteran wounded in the Iraqi war hit a $4 million jackpot this week, playing a $3 ticket — with fortune cookie numbers from one of his favorite restaurants.
Gabriel Fierro of Cornelius won the prize with in Tuesday’s Mega Millions drawing, N.C. lottery officials said Friday in a news release. The odds of winning a Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 302 million, officials said.
The fortune cookie came from the Red Bowl restaurant in Charlotte, where he and his wife dine each week, Fierro told officials when he claimed his prize at lottery headquarters in Raleigh on Thursday.
“I don’t usually play my fortune cookie numbers, but I tried them on a whim,” he said.
Tuesday’s winning numbers were 4-19-39-42-52 and the Mega Ball 9.
Fierro spent 32 years in the Army and is disabled from his service, according to the lottery.
His wife thought his win was an April Fool’s joke or a scam when an email told him he’d won.
At first, the 60-year-old Fierro said he stared at the email “dumbfounded.”
When the couple realized he really had won, “we started running around the house screaming like a bunch of banshees,” he said.
After taxes, he took home about $2.8 million, according to the lottery.
Fierro bought the ticket through the lottery’s Online Play, officials said. He added $1 to make it a Megaplier ticket, which would multiply any win, according to the lottery.
He won $1 million at first by matching the five white balls. His win soared to $4 million when the 4X Megaplier hit, officials said, making his prize the biggest ever through Online Play in the state.
Fierro plans to invest most of his win, he told lottery officials.
First, a celebration was in order, he said.
On the drive home to Lake Norman, he said, he intended to buy some champagne, he said with a laugh.
Fierro’s ticket was among three nationally to win the largest prize in the drawing.
Friday’s Mega Millions jackpot stands at $376 million, officials said. A winner could opt for an annuity paying out the $376 million over 29 years or a single take-home amount of $256.4 million.
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