Birthday gift: Utah man wins $3M Mega Millions prize from Idaho Lottery

BOISE, Idaho — A Utah man who calls playing lottery numbers “a hobby” received a late birthday present when he won $3 million after buying a Mega Millions ticket last month in Idaho.

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According to a news release by the Idaho Lottery, J. Refugio Gonzalez Almeida bought the winning ticket during the Fourth of July weekend in Malad. He drove to Idaho because Utah does not have lottery games.

At the time, the Mega Millions jackpot was at $400 million, The ticket Almeida bought on July 4 -- which also happens to be his birthday -- matched five numbers but not the Megaball to give him a $1 million payday. He tripled his winnings when the Megaplier option he played came out at 3X, lottery officials said.

“Playing the Lottery is my hobby. When I didn’t win the jackpot on that Friday, I thought ‘I need a ticket for the 4th of July,’ so I drove back to Malad on Saturday,” Almeida said in a statement. “I bought all the games, including Mega Millions. I had a lot (of) tickets.”

A month later, Almeida drove back to Idaho to check all of his tickets, not realizing that he had a big winner from the July 4 drawing.

“I had $2, $8, not a lot. And then they scanned another one and they told me I had to take it to the Lottery Commission!” Almeida said in a statement. “So, here I am.”

According to lottery officials, Almeida plans to invest his new windfall, which he collected on Aug. 11.

“I am taking this right to the bank and depositing it!” he said.

The record-breaking Mega Millions jackpot was won on Aug. 8, when one player in the northeastern Florida city of Neptune Beach won the estimated $1.58 billion jackpot.

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