The 4th of July is a big day in American history, and it was a big day for a Utah man who shares his birthday with the nation’s. This year, it marked the day he unknowingly became a millionaire.
J. Refugio Gonzalez Almeida bought a winning $3 million Mega Millions lottery ticket Independence Day weekend, but didn’t realize it until a month later.
Almeida traveled out of state to Malad, Idaho the week before the 4th of July, to purchase lottery tickets for the $400 million jackpot. He said he grabbed a lot of tickets. “I bought all the games, including Mega Millions,” he told Idaho Lottery officials.
And Almeida is no stranger to buying multiple tickets. “Playing the lottery is my hobby,” he said.
When he didn’t win the Friday jackpot, Almeida drove back to Malad on Saturday. “I thought, ‘I need a ticket for the 4th of July’,” he said. Almeida’s ticket matched the first five winning numbers – but not the Megaball, on the following Tuesday night of the Mega Millions drawing.
The ticket also had the number three as the Megaplier, which tripled Almeida’s $1 million winning to $3 million.
He traveled back to Malad a month after his unknown win on July 4th to check the status of all his tickets. “I had $2, $8, not a lot. And then they scanned this one and told me I had to take it to the Lottery Commission. So here I am,” Almeida said, holding the winning check.
He plans to invest the $3 million, Almeida told the lottery officials. “I am taking this right to the bank and depositing it.”
The Mega Millions jackpot went on to reach a game record of $1.58 billion, before someone won the full prize in Neptune Beach, Florida, earlier this month.