A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for one lucky California couple, one photo was worth $52 million.
More than a month after a Mega Millions drawing on July 27, the California Lottery stil hadn't found the winner, so the agency last Friday posted a photo of a mysterious man it believed had bought the winning ticket. Just hours later, an unemployed Fremont man came forward to claim the prize.
Bladimir Agnite had no idea he had won until an in-law called in excitement to say he had seen Bladimir's picture on television news. The surveillance video image showed a man in a white t-shirt and sunglasses. It was taken at a Kwik Stop at 3157 Walnut Avenue in Fremont, where Bladimir regularly bought lottery tickets, according to NBC, and where the winning ticket was sold on July 25.
When Bladimir went on the California Lottery's website to check the photo, he realized it was of him and rushed to tell his wife, Marita.
"I said, 'We're wanted -- in the lotto,'" he said during a Friday press conference.
The couple claimed the winnings Friday at a Lottery office in Sacramento, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
In a statement released by the Lottery, officials said they posted the image when they realized the winning ticket -- with the numbers 2, 3, 4, 8, 43 and the Mega number 26 -- had been checked several times at area stores but no one had come forward to claim the money.
Badimir explained what happened. “I scanned it multiple times. 'See the clerk.' We didn’t see the amount, just, 'See the clerk'. We didn’t know,” he told Lottery officials who wondered why he waited more than a month to cash in.
Marita said she started crying when she realized they had won. "He hugged me and we just cried and cried," she said.
The windfall couldn't have come at a better time. According to the Lottery, Bladimir recently was laid off from his job at a printing company and the family had been living with friends. The couple now plan to buy a house and send their children to college.
And Marita plans to continue working as a nursing assistant at a hospital in the Bay Area. “You can’t just quit the job," Bladimir said. "You never know what’s gonna happen."