Robert Space got into work at the Chubb Insurance company at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, realized the lottery ticket he was holding matched the winning numbers, and fired off a one-line e-mail to his nine co-workers who had pitched in to buy it.
“We won the big one,” it read.
The replies came back instantly: “Hahahaha” wrote one. “GREAT. Where do I pick up the cash?” joked another. Then they saw the ticket for themselves.
Space and his colleagues hit the second-largest single-ticket jackpot in New Jersey history, winning $216 million in the Mega Millions jackpot.
“I feel incredibly blessed. I can't even absorb it,” Space said, surrounded by stunned colleagues and clutching the winning ticket during a news conference at their office in the central New Jersey town of Whitehouse Station.
Space, with $5 from each colleague, said he bought 50 quick-pick tickets Monday afternoon at the Singin Oil gas station in the shore town of Toms River.
Space stopped by the gas station again Wednesday morning to get a printout of the winning numbers to check the tickets.
“I jokingly asked him (the attendant) if anyone had won and if it was sold here, but he didn't know,” Space said. So he stuffed the list in his pocket.
It wasn't until an hour or so later that Space had time to review the numbers, scanning each row and growing increasingly shocked as first one, then two, then three _ then six numbers matched. He called his wife to make sure he wasn't hallucinating, then sent out the e-mail.
“It takes a lot of stress out of life,” Space said of the winnings. The 10 will split a $216 million annuity or a one-time payout of about $140 million.
Lottery officials say no one has officially come forward to claim the prize yet. The 10 have not discussed when they will claim the prize but have a year to do so.
Taner Cetintas of Jackson, the owner of Singin Oil, will collect $10,000 for selling the ticket. Cetintas, a Turkish immigrant who worked for decades as a gas station manager before saving up enough to buy Singin Oil in January, said he was happy for his customer, and his own bonus would help pay bills.
The six men and four women who won said they've worked in Chubb's IT division from seven to 30 years and had been buying tickets together for years.
Their usual ticket buyer, Alan Mooney, always stops by colleagues' desks to collect ticket money, asking “Are ya in?” Mooney, who was among the winners, was in Florida on business. Space said Mooney was hurrying back to New Jersey, “upgrading to first class,” he joked.
Space said there were some colleagues who had opted out of this ticket buy.
One regular buyer, Oscar Oviedo, had asked Space to count him in and promised $5 for his share. Space rushed over to him early Wednesday morning and demanded the money.
“I thought: 'How rude!”' Oviedo said with a laugh, recalling how he handed over $5, unsure why Space was being so insistent. “Then he said, 'OK, thanks _ you're a millionaire.”'
The winning numbers were: 26, 32, 35, 43, 52 and the Mega Ball was 10.
In addition to Space, of Manchester Township; Mooney, of Budd Lake; and Oviedo, of Stewartsville, the other winners are: Gerard Solas, of Hillsborough; Anne LaFontaine, of Summit; Linda Harrington, of Bay Head; Melanie Jacob, of Alexandria Township; Joanne Roth, of Basking Ridge; Bill Bollwage, of Bridgewater; and Todd Ellis, of Maplewood.