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$46 million jackpot winner mails ticket 48 hours before expiry
June 16, 2001

Imagine being a multi-millionaire, and not knowing it. That almost happened to a New Jersey man who won big in the multi-state lottery Big Game, but left the ticket languishing in a drawer for about a year.

A 40-year-old computer technician, Melvin Milligan was, fortunately for him, paying attention one night when television newscasters said that New Jersey lottery officials were about to forfeit the previous year's $46 million jackpot because the winner had never showed up to claim his price.

Milligan dug through his junk drawer at home, fished out a few old lottery tickets and took them into the local convenience store where he had purchased them. The store owner confirmed him to be the winner and gave him a validation paper which, to everyone's surprise, Milligan dropped in the mail to lottery officials instead of driving directly to Trenton to collect his prize.

Milligan's mailed letter arrived in Trenton two days after the deadline for invalidating the prize, but the postmark on the envelope saved him. Otherwise, his wife said, "He would have been dead and I would have been in the jailhouse."

Milligan, who said he is going to take a cruise and look for a bigger house, will collect $1.7 million per year for the next 26 years.

Those millions of dollars almost stayed buried - forever - in a kitchen junk drawer.


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