Bronx man claims $168M Mega Millions

September 15, 2009 2:53:53 PM PDT
James "Jimmy" Groves is no stranger to New York's Mega Millions game. The 49-year-old grandfather has been buying his Quick Pick tickets for the twice weekly multi-state game since the first Mega Millions drawing in May 2002. His loyalty paid off last month, as the recently retired Madison Square Garden employee accepted his 50 percent share of a $336 million jackpot Tuesday. "It's a gift from God, no doubt," Groves said. "I can think of 168 million reasons why this was a good time to retire."

Groves credits his win on a last minute change to his ticket purchasing strategy.

"I play Mega every week, and 99 percent of the time, I go with the lump sum like everybody else," he said. "This time, I went with the annuity, thinking a little change like that might bring a change of luck."

The New York Lottery estimates that only 4 percent of New York's Mega Millions players elect to receive their jackpot prize as an annuity payout for any given drawing. The vast majority of players, 96 percent, choose the cash value or "lump sum" payout option.

As a result of choosing the annuity, Groves will receive his $168 million prize in 26 gross annual payments totaling more than $6,400,000 each. He will receive an annual net check totaling just over $4million through 2035.

Groves learned of his good fortune the day after the drawing from a print out of the winning numbers he requested from a Lottery retailer near his home.

"I checked the numbers at home and called my brother," he said. "He came over to calm me down, but we both ended up pacing the apartment until it was time for me to go to work. I also called my mom in Tennessee. She was here the next day."

Groves claimed his winning ticket at the Lottery's offices in New York City on September 1. His win puts the self-described "homebody" in the record books as New York's largest jackpot winner ever; toppling the record formerly held by Juan Rodriguez of Richmond Hills, Queens, who claimed a $149 million Mega Millions jackpot in November 2004. Aubrey Boyce of Kew Gardens, Queens rounds out the top three richest New York Lottery jackpot winners. Boyce claimed his $133 million Mega Millions jackpot in July.

Other recent Mega Millions jackpot winners from New York include Janet Alnwick of Merrick who won $22 million in January of this year, Isabel Zelaya of Wyandanch who won $26 million in March and the Silverbush Family of Syracuse who split a $35 million Mega Millions jackpot in May.

Groves said his immediate plans for his share of the $336 million jackpot he split with another player from California are simple.

"I'm going to take care of my mom and my children," he said. "I'm going to buy a house with a backyard. And, I'm going to travel the world. Beyond that, it's hard to say. I'm thinking about the here and now."

The jackpot roll up, which started on July 10, 2009 and culminated with the August 28 Mega Millions drawing, generated $50 million in aid to education in just over seven weeks.