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7 Powerball tickets in Virginia win $1 million in 4 weeks

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2012

They don't call it the commonwealth for nothing.

On Tuesday, Michael DeFonde of Woodbridge became $1 million richer after he accepted a check from the Virginia State Lottery for winning a Powerball drawing, making him the seventh $1 million Powerball ticket winner in four weeks.

In other words, for the past month the Old Dominion has been awarding new millionaires on an average rate of twice a week.

Dressed casually in jeans, a black windbreaker and baseball cap, Mr. DeFonde stood outside the Maple Dale BP in Dale City shaking hands with Virginia Lottery officials. In his hands was an enormous check bestowed ceremoniously on him at the gas station convenience store where he bought his winning ticket.

"I might set it in the living room so every morning I can look at it as an instant reminder and put a smile on my face," the already beaming 56-year-old said.

To win a $1 million Powerball prize, a ticket holder must match all five regular numbers. The odds of winning $1 million are about 1 in 5 million.

The Powerball jackpot, which means a person has matched the first five numbers and the sixth Powerball, pays out more. A person's chances of winning it all are 1 in 175 million.

"You just never know which numbers are going to come up," said John Hagerty, a spokesman for the Virginia Lottery. "I would still say this is the most million-dollar winners in such a short period of time."

The most recent $1 million Powerball winner before Mr. DeFonde was Ron Peyton of Richmond, who won on Dec. 5.

Prior to Mr. Peyton, the Virginia Lottery had four $1 millionwinners on the same day. It was Nov. 28, the day of the drawing for the $587 million Powerball jackpot — the second-largest lottery prize in world history.

Out of the 44 states that participate in the Powerball lottery, Virginia has the fifth-most winners of $1 million or more in the past month, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association.

Florida, New York, and New Jersey have all had 10 new millionaires in the past month, followed by nine new Powerball millionaires in Texas.

Multi-State Lottery Association Executive Director Charles Strutt explained that the Powerball game was redesigned in January, when ticket prices were increased from $1 to $2.

"The intention was to create lots of $1 million prizes," he said, adding that Virginia's winning streak could have been caused by a run on lottery tickets for the enormous jackpot late last month.

"Statistically there's really no system," he said. "There's no pattern, there's nothing we've seen that ties these together; but, of course, every winner has a fun story of how it happened. When they come in to claim $1 million, they're doing something most people never do."

Mr. DeFonde, however, has done it.

After taxes are taken out, Mr. DeFonde will pocket $710,000. He said he and his wife, Susan, budgeted for the holidays prior to their win, but come next year, the plan is to take a vacation and pay off bills.

The only jackpot larger than November's half-billion-dollar Powerball was also drawn this year. The $656 million-dollar Mega Millions jackpot captured the imagination of longtime and first time lottery players alike across the country.

Lottery players in Maryland captured part of the winnings, something Maryland Lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett pointed out.

"So 'Ha!' to them," she said with a laugh about Virginia's winning streak.

Ms. Everett said Maryland has had two Powerball jackpot winners since the lottery game started in the state. During last month's Powerball drawing, 10 tickets sold in Maryland won $10,000. In total, the state had more than 225,000 winning tickets during the record-breaking Powerball lottery, Ms. Everett said, though their prizes ranged from$4 to $2 million.

"Who wouldn't have wanted $587 million? But there's lots and lots of other winners," she said.

Prakash Patek, the 39-year-old owner of the BP station, is also a winner. Because his store sold the winning ticket, he was given a $10,000 commission, which he is using to take his family on a trip to India for the holidays.

And while Virginia Lottery officials shrug off any notion that their state is luckier than another, perhaps Mr. Patek is the one with the magic touch. The same store that sold Mr. DeFonde's ticket also sold a $52,000 scratch-off ticket. Last year at another store he owns in Manassas, Mr. Patek sold a $1 million scratch-off ticket.

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