SARAH BRUMFIELD, Associated Press
BALTIMORE (AP) - Two public school teachers and a school administrator who call themselves "The Three Amigos" are sharing part of last month's record Mega Millions jackpot, planning for trips to Europe, new homes and their children's college funds, Maryland Lottery officials said Tuesday.
The Maryland winners claimed their proceeds Monday and chose to remain anonymous, but the lottery agency shared some details in a news conference. They said each works multiple jobs to make ends meet.
"If it can't be you, these people are precisely the people you would want to see win," Maryland Lottery director Stephen Martino said.
The winning Maryland ticket is one of three nationally that split the $656 million jackpot, the biggest in Mega Millions history. The other winners in the March 30 drawing were picked in Kansas and Illinois. Kansas' winner claimed a share of the jackpot Friday, but also decided to remain anonymous.
Nobody has come forward in Illinois, where winners have one year to claim a jackpot and must make at least some details about themselves public, though not necessarily one's name.
One Maryland winner is a special education teacher, one is an elementary school teacher and the third is a school administrator. All three said they plan to continue to work, noting that they were committed to their students.
"One said 'I can't give up on my kids,'" Martino said.
The discovery of the real Maryland winners comes after a week of speculation and intense media coverage of a Baltimore woman, Mirlande Wilson, who claimed to hold the winning ticket and then said she had lost it.
The lottery confirmed that Wilson did not win. She and her attorney did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Martino said the three friends watched the news coverage and joked about it, knowing they held the real winner. They bought 60 tickets in three locations as a pool. The winner came from a 7-Eleven store in Milford Mill outside Baltimore. Each will receive a lump sum payment of $35 million after taxes.
One winner, a woman in her 20s, spread the tickets out on her floor to check them immediately after the drawing on March 30. When she realized one was a winner, she called her friends, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 50s.
The second woman told lottery officials she had forgotten about the drawing and went to sleep, but was awakened by her phone ringing and ringing. She didn't believe the other winners at first, thinking it was an early April Fool's joke, but they told her they were on their way over, Martino said. They signed copies of the winning ticket and one woman put the winning ticket in a safe at her mother's home. The trio also contacted a financial adviser, who got in touch with lottery officials.
When they went to lottery headquarters on Monday, one woman carried the winning ticket in an envelope in her purse and the other 59 in a separate envelope, Martino said. Officials checked those, but they won just one more dollar.
Martino described the winners as cheerful and humble and a little overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. One told officials that she had recently made a quiet prayer for help paying the bills.
"Clearly, this will pay the bills," he said.
The trio plans to invest their winnings, but they have a few dreams, too: The man told lottery officials that he planned to help his children with college expenses, pay off his house and buy his sister a house. One woman planned to go backpacking through Europe with her brother and the other plans to tour Italy's wine country.