Chicago: An American man who was facing a mountain of bills and eviction from his house has become a multi-millionaire after discovering a lottery-winning ticket in his cookie jar.
Ricardo Cerezo of Geneva, Illinois, said his wife was cleaning out the kitchen and mentioned the lottery tickets that had accumulated over the past month in a glass cookie jar.
"It was either take them, get them checked, or she was going to trash them that night," Cerezo was quoted by the Chicago Tribune as saying.
Cerezo, a management consultant, said he took the tickets to a 7-Eleven in Aurora and scanned them. The first eight or nine tickets were not winners.
"The following one was USD 3, so I was excited. I get to pay for my Pepsi. And then the last one said file a claim," he said, which meant it was worth at least USD 600.
Cerezo went online and found that the numbers matched the February 2 Lotto drawing.
"As each number kept matching, the smile kept going higher and higher. And when I realised we had all six numbers, it was that shocking moment of , `Whoa, can this really be?`" he said in a news conference on Wednesday.
"Fast forward to the next day: Called in sick from work, went down into Chicago. It`s one of feelings where it`s okay if they fire me," Cerezo said.
After he waited about half an hour, Cerezo said lottery officials brought him into a room and said his ticket was worth USD 4.85 million.
Just three months earlier, Cerezo appeared at a foreclosure hearing where a judge gave him a few more months to find a new home before they would be evicted.
"That was on February 12, so we were sitting on USD 4 million at that time in this jar," he said. "We will have our home paid off."
Cerezo said February holds special significance for him and his family because his daughter Savannah was born in that month. She died from a sudden illness in 2012.
"It couldn`t have happened at a better time," Cerezo said. "I just thought, this is how God works."