POWERBALL

Lucky lady: She opted out of Powerball pool, but gets a cut of $1 million anyway

 

Special to The Miami Herald

After winning $1 million, would you share it with a coworker you barely knew?

A group of 12 workers at Keller Williams Partner Realty in Plantation are doing exactly that.

Jennifer Maldonado had only been working as an administrative assistant for the company for two weeks, and she hadn’t even received her first pay check.

Laurie Finkelstein Reader, a Realtor and head of the team in that office, was going around collecting $20 from each of her colleagues to spend on Powerball tickets. The jackpot for Saturday night’s drawing was $338 million, and Finkelstein Reader, who occasionally plays, had a lucky feeling.

But Maldonado opted out.

“I hadn’t gotten a paycheck and I was watching my pennies,” said Maldonado.

Finkelstein Reader offered to lend her the money, but Maldonado said no.

On Sunday, when Maldonado showed up for work, everyone was there: screaming, jumping, running, hugging, crying.

They told her they had won.

She thought they were playing a joke on her.

“I knew I was the only one who hadn’t put in the money, so I thought they were pranking me and going out of their way to make me feel something,” said Maldonado, 31.

“I actually realized they weren’t messing with me when my boss sat down and said this was real,” she said.

The Keller Williams team had the five matching numbers: 17, 29, 31, 52 and 53. All they lacked was the red Powerball number, which would have made them a lot richer.

It was Amy Kilcoyne, also a Realtor, who had checked the numbers on her iPad and noticed one of their tickets matched. But she thought it was no big deal.

“I thought we won like $100 or $1,000,” said Kilcoyne.

Eventually, they figured out their share of the prize was $1 million.

“People started freaking out,” Kilcoyne said.

After tax money is taken out, each player who cashes out figures to end up with around $83,333.33, Finkelstein Reader said.

The gang stayed up till 4 a.m. on a phone conference talking about their prize and scheduled a celebration meeting Sunday morning at the office.

A couple of them say they will buy a house. Others say they’ll donate to a charity, or put some aside for a rainy day.

“I’m blessed,” said Finkelstein Reader. “My share of money won’t change my life but so far this has touched many lives — it’s about sharing the happiness.”

Even though she didn’t put in the $20, the crew at Keller Williams thinks Maldonado should share in their happiness.

They’ve all decided to kick in a bit of their winnings — they won’t say how much — to give her.

“As a team we put together a fat pile of money,” said Finkelstein Reader. “If we do the right thing and always care about other people, the right thing will happen to us.”

Another person to benefit from the group’s generosity is the clerk at the 7-Eleven Mobil Gas Station on Taft Street in Pembroke Pines, who sold Finkelstein Reader the tickets.

Finkelstein Reader said she never would have had the winning ticket if the clerk hadn’t made a mistake.

The clerk, who spoke only Spanish, didn’t understand Finkelstein Reader wanted 120 tickets. She thought she wanted $120 worth of tickets. The tickets sell for $2 each.

So the clerk printed half the tickets.

As Finkelstein Reader tried explaining she wanted 120 tickets, a line formed behind her.

People began to yell and one impatient man skipped to another line and purchased a bunch of tickets.

Finally, Finkelstein Reader was able to get her second batch — after the man who’d cut in front of her got his.

The winner was in the second batch.

“We wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for that,” said Finkelstein Reader.

The group is going to pick up their winnings Wednesday.

Nationwide, there were 13 $1 million winners — including another one from Florida who has yet to step forward.

And one lucky ticket holder in New Jersey matched all 5 numbers, plus the lucky Powerball number 31, to get the whopping $338 million prize.

The next Powerball, which will be drawn Wednesday night, is $40 million.

Will Maldonado and the gang from Keller Williams play?

Nope.

Finkelstein Reader said they’re not going to play — and win — until the payout is more than $200 million.

But the next time they do, Maldonado is sure to join in.

“I didn’t realize how lucky they are,” she said.

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