Sandy victims among the ‘Ocean’s 16’ Powerball winners
OCEAN COUNTY, N.J. — Several of them suffered property losses in Superstorm Sandy. One is the daughter of a man who helped write New Jersey’s lottery law.
All are feeling extremely lucky.
Sixteen New Jersey co-workers who jointly held one of three tickets that won last week’s $448 million Powerball jackpot came forward publicly Tuesday.
Dubbed the “Ocean’s 16” — they work for the Ocean County vehicle maintenance facility — the group claims $86 million, or one third of the jackpot’s cash-option value. After federal and state taxes, each group member will get $3.8 million.
One is Darlene Riccio, who told reporters that last year’s monster storm forced she and her daughter to move from their rented home of five years in Brick, New Jersey, to an apartment above a storefront.
The first thing she’s going to do: “Buy me and my daughter a home and bring my dog back home.”
“It has been an extremely rough year,” Riccio said at the group’s news conference in Toms River. “When we lost everything, this whole group here — and everybody I worked with — really pulled together and helped me through. This has been like a great family for me. We have a bond now.”
Several others raised their hands when asked whether they suffered losses in the storm, which the federal government has said is expected to rank as the second-costliest tropical cyclone on record, after Hurricane Katrina.
Another winner, Barbara Jo Riivald, is a daughter of the late state Sen. John Brown — “the father of the New Jersey Lottery,” as state lottery Executive Director Carol Hedinger put it.
Riivald’s father, who died in 2011, sponsored the law that led to the debut of the state lottery in 1970.
“When we actually hit this lottery, not even in my mind did I remember my father was the father of the lottery,” Riivald said. “When I called my sister to tell her, she said, ‘Oh my gosh, Barb. Dad is just smiling down.’ She said, ‘It’s his lottery.’
“The only thing I wanted to do that next morning was pick up the phone and call him and call my mom (who also died recently). And then I realized I couldn’t do that,” she said. “But this is a really special moment.”
Sixty people work at the Toms River facility, though only the 16 pooled their money together. Group members said they bought lottery tickets together for about five years, but only when jackpots were big.
Lisa Presutto bought 48 tickets for the group last week, purchasing them at an Acme Market in Little Egg Harbor.
As she checked the winning numbers with her coffee Thursday morning, she “immediately started shaking” when she saw one of her tickets match. She needed someone to check it.
“I … had to wake my poor husband up — who was no longer poor,” Presutto said.
All 16 returned to work after winning. But one co-winner, Joseph Odoardo, raised his hand Tuesday when asked whether any of them are going to retire now.
“After 34 years and almost retiring last year, this happens, and you just don’t have another choice,” he said.
Co-winner William Seeley wore a “Duck Dynasty”-themed T-shirt and rather looked and talked like the A&E show’s stars. Wearing a long beard, he said he was “Happy, happy, happy” in the style of the program’s patriarch, Phil Robertson.
Seeley said he lost his mother to cancer last year, and his dad is suffering from it now.
“That’s … the first place I stopped, was Pop’s house. Started crying in front of him and told him I loved him and you got nothing to worry about now except getting better,” Seeley said.
The other winners are: Ralston Chalfant Jr.; Peter Cherkos; Joseph D’Angelo; June Delgado; Robert Heinen; Dorothy Kulina; Tabitha Long; Brian McCarthy; Susan Nickel; Eleine Sanchez; and Donna Cinque-Stasse.
An electrical engineer in Minnesota came forward on Thursday to claim his one-third stake. The holder of the other ticket — also sold in New Jersey — has yet to come forward.
The all-time largest U.S. jackpot was $656 million in the Mega Millions game in March 2012. That was split among three tickets sold in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland.
Powerball is played in 43 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A single ticket costs $2.
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