12/17/13 1:14pm
12/17/2013 1:14 PM

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | By midday today, the Mega Millions total, as displayed at Hallmark Card and Gifts in Riverhead, was up to $636 million and rising. The next drawing is 11 p.m. tonight.

By midday today, the signs posted all around the Mattituck 7-11 promoting the Mega Millions were already out of date. As Greg Cocheo, the store owner, scanned to see the latest update, he crumbled a piece of paper that listed the grand prize at more than $500 million.

It was already up to $636 million and rising closer to a record total.

Mr. Cocheo predicted it would climb to more than $700 million by the end of the day, when the next drawing is scheduled for 11 p.m.

“Everybody wants that dollar,” Mr. Cocheo said as he put through $5 worth of tickets for his wife.

All across the North Fork today, clerks have been transformed into salesmen, urging customers to take a chance at the unlikely life-altering jackpot.

A little snow hardly dampened people’s pursuit of the mind-numbing pot of money.

At 7-11, though, the crowds haven’t been much greater than normal, Mr. Cocheo said.

“Regular customers coming in,” he said, to purchase tickets.

The odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 259 million, more daunting odds after the game was expanded recently to picking between numbers 1 and 75 when it used to be capped at 56. The odds used to be 1 in 176 million.

If there’s no winner tonight, the jackpot could reach $1 billion.

At Hallmark Card and Gifts in Riverhead, people were packed inside playing Lotto games. Mega Millions was the main attraction.

“Unbelievable,” said Bobby Patel, who’s worked at the store for about a year.

Mr. Patel was busing selling the buy $10, get two tickets free deal.

“Big seller today,” Mr. Patel said.

At the Mobil gas station on Route 58, store clerk Shafiq Muhammad said business has been solid for the past few days. The snowy conditions hasn’t been a problem.

“They will come,” he said.

Josh Brower, who works at P.C. Richards in Riverhead, bought a Mega Millions ticket at Mobil this afternoon. Mr. Brower said he’s a regular lotto player, usually buying tickets on Tuesday and Thursdays.

He said he’s won in the past, $100 here and there.

It’s not so much the dream of riches that drives him, he said.

“It’s just an energy exchange,” he said. “Free yourself of baggage.”

As Mr. Brower left the store, another customer approached the counter.

“Buy a lotto ticket today!” Mr. Muhammad said to the man. “Stop buying beer.”

The man gave it a thought, but given the odds, he went with the beer.

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02/28/13 3:00pm
02/28/2013 3:00 PM

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Mega Millions winner Kim Chilton (center) with Showcase Wine and Liquor owner Corinne Ferdenzi and store employee Will Burkard.

Kim Chilton was feeling bummed when she couldn’t accompany friends on a trip to Mohegan Sun earlier this month.

Instead, she planned a quiet night at home with her husband and a bottle of wine. While visiting Showcase Wine and Liquor on North Road in Southold that evening, she purchased a Mega Millions ticket, figuring she’d try her luck another way.

She did better at the liquor store than she probably would have at the casino.

Ms. Chilton, a mother of three from Southold, was one of two people to purchase a second place-winning ticket for the Feb. 1 Mega Millions drawing, earning her a $250,000 prize.

“I started shaking,” she said of the experience of learning she was a winner. “I was in disbelief.”

And it almost didn’t happen at all.

The store was busy at the time Ms. Chilton asked to play a $5 quick pick. Distracted, store clerk Will Burkard initially handed her a ticket for just $1. He then corrected his error and handed her a second ticket with four more sets of numbers. The winning numbers 1-30-32-40-41 (she could have won $13 million if she’d also had 17 for her mega ball number) were on the top line of the second ticket, which she pinned to a bulletin board in her house.

Even after she heard through a friend that one of the winning tickets was purchased locally — the other was sold in Michigan — Ms. Chilton waited a week before verifying her numbers. She said she was later reminded when she saw an article on suffolktimes.com.

“I saw the story and I saw that it was purchased [at Showcase],” she said. “I thought, ‘Hmm, I better check that out.’”

A substitute aide in the Southold School District and an adviser for the high school’s robotics team, Ms. Chilton was so wrapped up in preparing for the club’s competition in April that she waited another whole day after reading The Suffolk Times article before logging on to the lottery website to check the winning numbers.

She immediately walked the winning ticket to her husband, Ed, and asked him if he’d heard there was a local winner.

“I was still shaking when I showed him,” she said.

Ms. Chilton said her children told her they were happy something so nice could happen to parents who have dedicated much of their lives to helping their kids.

She said she still plans to use the money — she received $165,000 after taxes — to pay off her children’s educations. Her daughter, Kerry, and oldest son, Charles, are already enrolled in college and Kerry plans to attend law school later. Her youngest son, Tim, is also headed for college once he graduates from Southold.

Ms. Chilton has tried to keep a low profile since she won, but said word spreads quickly in such a small town.

That’s a big reason why she was nervous when a blizzard struck the day after she discovered she’d won. Her accountant advised her not to tell a soul that she was in possession of the winning ticket until after the snow cleared and she could safely exchange it at the lottery’s regional office in Garden City.

Even that exchange provided an interesting experience. Ms. Chilton said the lotto staff greets you quietly as you enter the building and doesn’t verbally congratulate you in the lobby. Instead, a woman there gave her a thumbs up and handed her paperwork.

“You sit there and quietly fill it all out,” she said. “It’s like filling out a job application.”

They then ask you to pose for photographs with the ceremonial check before cutting you the real one.

“I headed straight for the bank after that,” she said.

It was a whirlwind many Showcase Wine and Liquor customers hoped they’d get the chance to experience after word spread that the store sold the winning ticket.

But one man, who store owner Corinne Ferdenzi said purchased his ticket minutes after Ms. Chilton purchased hers, later said he hoped he hadn’t bought the winner. That’s because the man told Ms. Ferdenzi he couldn’t find it.

“I told him, ‘Don’t worry about it, we already know who the winner is,’” she said. “He was relieved.”

A casual lottery player, Ms. Chilton said she felt there was no way she’d picked a winner the day her friend told her it was bought in town.

“We even joked about it and then I forgot all about it,” she said. “I was busy with robotics.”

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02/04/13 4:19pm
02/04/2013 4:19 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Showcase Wine and Liquor in Southold.

Someone who bought a Mega-Millions lottery ticket at a Southold liquor store Friday afternoon is $250,000 richer, although they may not know it.

The New York State Lottery has confirmed that a second prize ticket in the Friday, Feb. 1 Mega-Millions drawing was purchased at Showcase Wine and Liquor on North Road in Southold. But the winner has yet to step forward and claim the prize.

“For a little, tiny store in a tiny town in the dead of winter this was very exciting,” said Corinne Ferdenzi, who has owned and operated Showcase for 25 years. “It could have been a regular, it could have been someone off the ferry. We’ve been racking our brains because we know how most people play.”

She said that before Friday’s drawing the largest winning ticket sold in her shop was one for $54,000.

Lottery winners have a year to claim their prize.