LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska Lottery officials have booked a hotel meeting room for a press conference announcing the holder of the record $365 million Powerball jackpot ticket sold in Lincoln.
Now all they need is the winner.
As of Tuesday, nearly three days after the winning numbers were announced, no one had stepped forward to claim the prize.
But the rumors and speculation were abundant.
The Lincoln Journal Star said on its Web site that "sources close to the situation have confirmed" the winning ticket was held by a group of at least seven workers at a local meatpacking plant.
One rumor pegged the winner as a truck driver from Colorado who stopped Friday at the U Stop convenience store that sold the winning ticket.
Another rumor turned out to be a hoax.
On Monday, a man who said he was an unemployed trucker from Omaha named Bob Pagano showed up flashing cash at Lincoln a local Village Inn restaurant, claimed he was the winner and bought everybody in the place dinner.
But Pagano said he had picked the winning numbers, while lottery officials said the winning numbers were a "quick-pick" generated by computer.
Also, the photocopy of what Pagano claimed was the winning ticket said it was bought on Sunday, Feb. 17. Sunday was Feb. 19.
The drawing was on Saturday, the 18th.
Alas, it was learned Tuesday that the man's name actually was Bob Pagani — not Pagano.
Pagani is cohort of Alan Abel, who has long been known around the world for putting on elaborate hoaxes.
"Bob Pagani has been a confederate of mine for 25 years," Abel told The Associated Press.
Abel said he and Pagani noticed the gaffe on the date printed on the photocopy of the purported winning ticket just before launching their ruse.
"It was a goof," he said.
Pagani said he'd been planning a Powerball hoax for about a year.
"He held court for about three hours at the Village Inn restaurant," Abel said. "He was swarmed."
Meanwhile, several satellite TV news trucks were parked outside the Nebraska State Office Building on the chance that the winner — or winners would show up.
Nebraska Lottery spokesman Brian Rockey said he has made arrangements with a local hotel to have a news conference "every day ...— on the off-chance that we have someone come forward."
"If we have something more firm, we'll progress," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
It was the biggest jackpot on record for any lottery in the United States.
Lottery officials earlier said that winners of big jackpots most often consult with a lawyer or financial adviser before coming forward.
Mick Mandi, owner of the U Stop convenience store where the winning ticket was sold, said the store's surveillance tape shows five people — four men and a woman — at the counter when the winning ticket was sold at 3:09 p.m. CST last Friday.
Mandi said one of the two appeared to a man he recognized as a regular customer, but he was not positive.
The winning numbers drawn Saturday were 15, 17, 43, 44 and 48, with a Powerball number of 29, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association of Des Moines, Iowa, which runs the game for the participating states.
The ticket holder has the option of taking the money in one lump sum or installments over 30 years. The cash option is $177.3 million, or $124.1 million after taxes. On the installment plan, the first payment would be $6,507,986 after taxes.
The previous U.S. lottery jackpot record was $363 million for the Big Game, the forerunner of Mega Millions. That was won by two ticket holders in Illinois and Michigan in 2000. Powerball's previous record jackpot, $340 million, was won by an Oregon family in October.
Powerball is played in 28 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.