Mega mystery solved: Winning Maryland lottery ticket claimed

Three Maryland public school system employees won a share of the record Mega Millions $656 jackpot, lottery officials announced Tuesday, ending a mystery that involved a McDonald's employee who claimed she had the golden ticket.

Maryland Lottery Director Stephen Martino said the employees, who will remain anonymous, will each receive $34.997 million after taxes. The trio bought a total of 60 tickets at three different locations throughout the state, or a total investment of $20 per person for the $218.6 million portion of the grand prize.

"It is the first time that the three friends have pooled their money together," Martino said.

The winners -- a woman in her 20s, another in her 50s and a man in his 40s who refer to themselves as "The Three Amigos" -- have decided to take the lump sum winnings and plan to purchase new homes. One also plans to take a backpacking trip through Europe, while another will pay for his daughter's college education, Martino said. A third winner will tour Italy's wine country, he said.

All three have indicated they intend to remain employees within Maryland's public school system. One employee is an elementary school teacher, another is a special education instructor and the third works in an administrative role, Martino said.

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"They were modest," Martino continued. "They were humbled by this stroke of luck they've received."

The announcement ended a two-week mystery following the record-breaking, $656 million drawing on March 30. It was known the next morning that one of three winning tickets was purchased at a Baltimore-area 7-Eleven, and a McDonald's worker stepped forward claiming to have it. Mirlande Wilson, a Haitian single mom of seven, went as far as alienating her co-workers by claiming she bought it separately from tickets she purchased for a pool of 15 co-workers and even held a press conference at her lawyer's office.

As her co-workers fumed about being cut out of a jackpot they were never really in on, Wilson told the New York Post she'd hidden the ticket somewhere in the restaurant.

"We believe it to be a legitimate claim," attorney Edward Smith told a packed press conference at his law office last week. "When it is time to present the ticket or whatever it is that needs to be presented to the lottery commissioner, I am sure that we will be there."

But it was all a fabrication, and it is not clear why Wilson went public with her phony tale. A winner in Kansas, who also chose to remain anonymous, claimed a portion of the prize last week. Another winner in Illinois has yet to come forward.

"These are the only winners of the jackpot," Martino said in reference to the three public school employees announced on Tuesday.

One winner said she "forgot about the drawing" when she went to sleep on March 30.

"That evening, I forgot about the drawing and went to sleep," she said, according to a news release from lottery officials. "It was around 11:30 p.m., and my phone just kept ringing and ringing. I finally decided to answer it, thinking something was wrong."

Once she picked up, her two lottery partners said: "Get dressed. We're coming over right now."