New Jersey victims of Sandy introduced as Powerball winners
Toms River, N.J. • Six people afflicted by Superstorm Sandy, as well as the daughter of a legislator who wrote the law creating the New Jersey Lottery, were among the 16 county garage workers who won a third of the recent $448 million Powerball jackpot.
Calling themselves Ocean's 16 in a nod to the "Ocean's Eleven" string of casino-caper movies, the group of Ocean County workers appeared at a news conference Tuesday in Toms River, just over a mile away from the county government motor pool where almost all of them say they intend to continue working, at least for now.
"When I found out we were winners, I was speechless," said Darlene Riccio. The Brick Township house she and her daughter had been renting was wrecked by the October storm, and they have been living with relatives.
"It has been an extremely rough year since then," she said. "The first thing I'm going to do is buy me and my daughter a house, and bring my dog home."
William Seeley, who said a tree fell on his home, was one of the few winners who says he may retire now.
"We are happy, happy, happy!" he said. "I'm going to continue to watch NASCAR races on Sunday. Maybe I'll be at a log cabin on multiple acres of land."
He and most of the other winners did not reveal their hometowns, and the New Jersey Lottery Commission also would not provide them.
"We are truly blessed for what we received," said Brian McCarthy, another of the winners. "It's been truly great."
After taxes, each of the 16 winners will receive $3.8 million.
The players chose the cash option, taking a lump-sum payout immediately that generally cuts the value of the jackpot in half. They let the lottery terminal computer randomly select their numbers.
Barbara Jo Riivald initially forgot that her recently deceased father, state Sen. John F. Brown, wrote the law creating the New Jersey Lottery. It took a phone call from her sister to make the connection once the winning numbers were drawn.
"She said, 'Dad is just smiling down; it's his lottery,'" Riivald said.
She said the lottery win was bittersweet in that both her parents died within a short time.
"The only thing I wanted to do was pick up the phone and call him and her," Riivald said. "And I couldn't."
The ticket, purchased at a supermarket in Little Egg Harbor, was one of three winners in last week's Powerball drawing. A suburban Minneapolis man, project engineer Paul White, claimed one of the Powerball prizes last week. The holder of the third winning ticket, sold in South Brunswick, N.J., has not yet come forward.
Lisa Presutto chose the supermarket to buy the 48 tickets for her group because she had dropped off a prescription previously with the store's pharmacy. When she saw the winning numbers drawn, she began shaking, and walked down the hallway to her bedroom, intent on rousing her still-sleeping husband to verify that she had the winning numbers.
"I had to wake up my poor husband who is no longer poor," she said.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC