$490 million lottery winner steps forward

Last updated 12:25 02/04/2014

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A US senior citizen has came forward to claim a record-setting US$425.3 million (NZ$490m) lottery prize after purchasing a winning Powerball ticket from a California gas station in February.

B. Raymond Buxton, a Northern California retiree, claimed the prize at California Lottery headquarters in Sacramento while wearing a shirt that featured a picture of Yoda and read, "Luck of the Jedi I have," according to lottery officials.

Buxton wants to use his fortune to travel and start a foundation fighting child hunger and promoting pediatric health and education.

He apparently purchased the US$2 ticket for while buying food at a Chevron gas station in Milpitas, according to a news release from Sam Singer and Associates, a high-profile San Francisco Bay Area public-relations firm.

Buxton, who had the computer pick his numbers, couldn't believe it when he realised he'd won.

'''Unbelievable!' is all I could muster,'' Buxton said, according to a news release from the state lottery. ''I sat in front of the computer for hours in disbelief, frequently checking and rechecking the numbers across multiple sources. Once the initial shock passed I couldn't sleep for days.'' 

Buxton is the sole winner of the sixth-largest US jackpot ever, and the single-largest jackpot won in California.

Buxton plans to take the lump sum, which will amount to US$242.2m (NZ$279m). After taxes he'll likely be left with around US$146m (NZ$168m).

Buxton has already hired a firm to handle bank accounts, taxes and to establish a charity, according to the release, which also said Buxton has declined interviews and is deferring media to Singer’s firm.

Immediately after realizing he won, Buxton kept it to himself, and turned to the California Lottery’s web page advising winners to line up legal and financial representation.

“Sitting on a ticket of this value was very scary. It’s amazing how a little slip of paper can change your life. I’m going to enjoy my new job setting up a charitable foundation focused on the areas of pediatric health, child hunger and education,” he said.

He added that he plans to “spend time with my family and friends, start a charity and consult with professionals on how to pragmatically utilize this windfall,” with a perhaps more ambitious plan of “trying to find a way to live a normal and discreet life".

-AP/MCT

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