Maryland's Mega Millions mystery: 'Winner' in hiding, co-workers in limbo

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Published April 03, 2012

| FoxNews.com

Fifteen Maryland McDonald's employees remain in financial limbo Tuesday as a co-worker who claimed to hold a $105 million Mega Millions lottery ticket stays in hiding amid suspicions she is either being greedy or perpetrating a cruel hoax.

Three winning tickets were bought for Friday's record-breaking $656 million Mega Millions drawing. While no one has come forward to claim the prize, Mirlande Wilson's boasts to a newspaper that she selected the ticket has caused ill-will at a McDonald's in Westport, a section in Baltimore, Md., where she works. Wilson bought tickets for a pool of co-workers, but told the New York Post that the winning ticket she claimed to have purchased was bought separately.

Lottery officials in Maryland, however, downplayed Wilson's claim to the golden ticket without proof.

"Until or unless someone walks through the door with that ticket, and it's verified as the winner, we don't have any lead on anybody," Maryland Lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett told FoxNews.com early Tuesday. "There is a winner somewhere, but we don't know who they are yet."

Attempts to reach Wilson, a Haitian immigrant living in Baltimore, have been unsuccessful. In a statement to The Associated Press, the franchise's owner, Birul Desai, said the Post's report was purely speculation and cautioned anyone from jumping to conclusions until the winning ticket is verified.

Wilson's co-workers are sizzling with anger over the confusion.

"She can't do this to us!” shift manager Suleiman Osman Husein told the New York Post. "We each paid $5. She took everybody’s money!"

Three tickets -- one each in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland -- will split the jackpot, which officials announced Monday had reached $656 million after sales from 44 state lotteries were collected, up from the previously reported $640 million. That means each winner would receive roughly $218 million apiece before taxes, or roughly $105 after Uncle Sam gets a cut.

"That record-shattering amount was the result of unprecedented sales in all jurisdictions where Mega Millions is played," read a statement on MegaMillions.com.

Winners in Illinois and Maryland have several months to claim the prize, while the lucky ticket-holder in Kansas has up to one year. Both Maryland and Kansas allow winners to remain anonymous, while the winner in Illinois must be identified.

"We've had no contact with the winner at this point in time," Kansas Lottery spokeswoman Cara Sloan-Ramos told FoxNews.com early Tuesday.

In Illinois, the winning ticket was purchased at a convenience store in the town of Red Bud, south of St. Louis. Mike Lang, a state lottery spokesman, said no winner had been verified as of Tuesday.

Meanwhile, one Maryland lottery winner who walked away with $32.6 million after splitting the prize with three other ticket-holders in 2007 told the Baltimore Sun that "no publicity" was the key after winning it big.

"That's the key," Elwood "Bunky" Bartlett told the newspaper. "Remain anonymous. Otherwise, everybody and their brother will find you and try to get money from you. The American people seem to think that just because you win money you're supposed to share it with everyone else."

Elwood, formerly of Dundalk, Md., said he received "thousands and thousands" of solicitations following his big payday.

"My favorite came from the person who wrote $34,000 in the subject line, and then included just their name and address," he continued. "That was it. No explanation, no story. Just $34,000."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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