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NJ Mega Millions jackpot goes to Vernon resident

CLOSENJ Mega Millions jackpot goes to Vernon resident

The winner of the $533 million lottery, Richard Wahl of Vernon comes to lottery headquarters to accept his check.

TRENTON — Meet the state’s newest multi-millionaire. Richard Wahl, a 47-year-old  production manager at AAK Foodservice from Vernon, is the sole winner of the mammoth $533 million Mega Millions jackpot. 

The prize is the largest lottery win in New Jersey history, and the fourth-highest Mega Millions jackpot ever.

Wahl opted for the one-time cash option and after taxes is expected to collect about $175 million. A whopping $149 million will go to pay income taxes.

“We’re a humble family and we’re going to keep our roots,”  Wahl told reporters Friday.

New Jersey Lottery officials quickly called a news conference for their superstar at Lottery Headquarters Friday a day after he came forward. Wahl waited two weeks before claiming his windfall. 

Wahl, who moved to New Jersey from Michigan last July, said he would like to rebuild a 1964 Corvette and also hopes to do charity work with his money.

“We are not the type to run out and spend all the money and have a great time and party it up,” Wahl said. 

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At first, Wahl said, he looked at the ticket and thought he won $1 million. “I was excited. Life-changing money.”

He became emotional when recounting the moment he realized he won the jackpot. “It didn’t sink in. It was truly amazing.” He said he walked upstairs and told his wife they were going on vacation. “We hit it,” he told her. Then reviewed the numbers about 15 times more, just to make sure, he said.

Wahl said he and his family are Catholic, but have not yet found a church in New Jersey.  He said the plan for the money includes doing “a lot of good things with it.” He said he will consult with his financial team, which was present at the news conference, before deciding on the ‘plan.’

“For us we believe God has a plan…it’s not only life-changing money for me, we want it to be life-changing money for others. Family, friends, people in need,” he said. His mother is on “reduced income,”  he said, and now he will be able to help her.

When asked whether or not he would move, Wahl said no decisions have been made. 

He said he found out he won on Good Friday and didn’t leave the house the entire weekend. The ticket, purchased the day before the drawing, went into a fire-proof safe.

He went back to the gas station on Saturday for gas and once he realized news reporters were there, he and his family quickly left as to not be recognized. 

An analysis by The Record and Northjersey.com found that the biggest Mega Millions winners usual take about 12 days to come forward. Wahl took an extra two days. Lottery officials say it’s not unusual for winners to wait even longer. 

Daniel Mahler, a certified public accountant with Gisler & Mahler in Bloomingdale, said the winner is going to have to get used to saying, “no.”

“This guy has to watch himself,” he said of New Jersey’s big winner. “Everybody’s going to come after him. Everybody looks for a handout.”

Unlike some other states winners don’t have the option to remain anonymous in New Jersey, lottery officials said. They are also required to participate in a mandatory news conference.

Wahl was joined Friday by New Jersey Lottery Acting Executive Director John M. White, and Acting State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio

Lottery officials presented a $30,000 bonus check to the Lukoil mini-mart in Riverdale on April 2 where the winning ticket was sold. The owner of the store, Ameer Krass, said he had been able to identify Wahl by reviewing surveillance footage. But he said he didn’t try to contact the lucky ticket holder. He also urged anyone who might know him to give the winner “the space they deserve.”

New Jersey’s only other appearance on the top-10 Mega Millions winnings list was in 2007 when the state shared a $390 million jackpot with Georgia, according to the Mega Millions website. That is now the eighth-highest win in the game’s history.

New Jersey was the seventh state to join the consortium almost three years after the game began in the summer of 1996 as the Big Game. Today, 44 states participate along with Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Follow Jai Agnish on Instagram and Twitter: @JaiAgnish.

Email: Agnish@northjersey.com.

More on this story

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Where’s the winner: Most Mega Millions winners step up in 12 days, but Jersey’s $533M jackpot still unclaimed

A ‘regular’: NJ Mega Millions winner may be ‘one of our regulars’ from North Jersey, but hasn’t been identified

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