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N.J. couple claims $75.5 million jackpot

The Mega Millions lottery is really throwing its money around today and tomorrow.

The Mega Millions lottery is really throwing its money around today and tomorrow.

At noon today in Trenton, Mario and Clelia Lopes, a married couple from Union County, were introduced as the sole winners of the July 22 jackpot - worth about $75.5 million cash.

Before federal taxes. They take a 25 percent bite.

The annuity value was $126 million.

Tomorrow night, Mega Millions has an even bigger jackpot, $170 million, up for grabs. The lump-sum option is worth about $117 million.

The Lopeses just add to the legendary luck New Jerseyans have had in lotteries.

Clelia Lopes, a homemaker, bought the ticket, using numbers she usually plays, at an A.J. Seabra supermarket in Newark. A few days passed with the ticket in her purse, before she thought to check it, said N.J. Lottery spokesman Dominick DeMarco.

Mario Lopes does construction work.

The reason for the delay in their coming forward?

"Somebody took our advice," DeMarco said.

That means the couple secured professional legal and financial advice, before deciding how to claim their prize, he explained.

Tickets are good for one year, he added.

Tomorrow's prize jumped up from Friday's, because no ticket had all of the numbers drawn Friday night: 21, 27, 46, 52 and 55, with a Mega Ball of 14.

Mega Millions is played in New Jersey, Maryland and 10 other states.

New Jersey has certainly seized its share of Mega Millions windfalls.

Last December, a group of teachers and staffers at a Morris County high school won half of a $163 million jackpot.

In August 2007, a $330 million pot was split by four ticket-holders, including a Cape May County couple.

In March 2007, another Cape May County couple won half of a U.S. record $390 million prize.

In May 2004, a Princeton-area couple even won a $213 million Powerball jackpot. They bought the lucky stub in Bucks County, Pa.

A North Jersey couple also won a third of a $331 million Big Game pool in April 2002.

The other major multistate lottery, Powerball, has a $35 million annuity, or $20.4 million cash, on the line Wednesday night.

Powerball's cash payout for Wednesday's drawing is $20.4 million. No one hit all of Saturday night's numbers, which were: 9, 35, 39, 43 and 53, with a Powerball of 10.

Powerball tickets are sold in Pennsylvania, Delaware and more than two dozen other states.

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