LINCOLN, Neb. – After fleeing the war-torn Republic of Congo, Alain Maboussou found work at a Nebraska meatpacking plant. Now he plans to quit that job and return to school after winning part of a record $365 million Powerball jackpot.
Maboussou and seven co-workers parlayed $40 worth of tickets into the biggest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. They chose to take a lump sum when they claimed the jackpot Wednesday and will get $15.5 million each after taxes.
Maboussou, 26, who left the Congo in 1999, plans to use his winnings to pursue a degree in business administration and to provide for his wife and baby daughter.
"She's going to be happy for the rest of her life," he said of his 3-month-old daughter.
"This is great country!" said Quang Dao, 56, who came to the United States in 1988. He said he plans to help his family in Vietnam with his winnings.
Three of the workers quit their jobs when they hit the jackpot.
"I've been retired for about four days now," said Eric Zornes, 40.
Mike Terpstra, a 47-year-old plant supervisor who is single and has no children, was unsure what to do with the money.
"Everybody has dreams," he said. "Buy an island. Buy an airplane. In reality, I'm not a fan of flying and don't really like water."
The winners said they often pooled their money when Powerball jackpots exceeded $40 million. Maboussou said he did not think employees who did not chip in for the tickets would harbor any ill will toward the winners.
"I don't think they have a reason to be jealous because when it's a pool day, we ask people to put like in five bucks, so if you wasn't there or you didn't put five bucks in, sorry," he said.
Dung Tran, 34, has worked at the meatpacking plant for 15 years after leaving Vietnam. He held onto the winning ticket until the group validated it with lottery officials.
During a news conference, he pointed into the crowd to the convenience-store clerk who sold him the ticket — hinting, perhaps, that a tip might be forthcoming.
"I don't forget her," he said, grinning widely.
The other winners were: David Gehle, 53; Chasity Rutjens, 29; and Robert Stewart, 30.
The winning numbers were 15, 17, 43, 44 and 48, with a Powerball number of 29. The odds of picking the winning combination of numbers were 1 in 146 million.
The previous U.S. jackpot record was $363 million, won by two ticketholders in Illinois and Michigan in 2000.
Powerball tickets are sold in 28 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.