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For Lotto Winner, 'Finders, Keepers' Means $1M

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on December 30, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The adage "finders, keepers" couldn't ring truer for one New York lottery winner.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Long Island landscaper Marvin Rosales-Martinez was clearing debris with a leaf blower when he chanced upon a soggy "Win $1,000 a Week for Life" scratch-off ticket. To his surprise, it was a valid winning ticket for $1 million -- and he was able to claim it.

But how was Rosales-Martinez able to claim the winnings when he never even purchased the ticket?

Finders, Keepers...

Luckily for the lottery winner, lotto tickets are bearer instruments, meaning they are instruments that may be converted to cash by whomever holds them. That means if you find it, you can keep it.

That being said, it's standard practice for the lottery to require a one-year waiting period before awarding the prize in case anyone else comes forward, reports CNN.

In this case, no one stepped forward. Rosales-Martinez brought the ticket to the lottery's Long Island Customer Service Center on November 9, 2012, which is when the ticket was confirmed and the one-year waiting period began.

Because no one else came forward to claim the misplaced winnings during the required one-year waiting period, the New York State Gaming Commission gave Rosales-Martinez the prize.

According a lottery spokesman, the commission found no reason to believe that the ticket "wasn't rightfully the property of Mr. Martinez. There was no report of theft or of a ticket being misplaced."

Lump Sum Payment

Rosales-Martinez opted to receive his jackpot prize as a one-time lump sum payment. He will receive a payment of $779,106, netting him $515,612 after required tax withholdings, reports CNN.

The lucky winner plans to spend the cash in adorably practical ways, including sending money home to El Salvador, helping his mom fix her house, and taking his wife on a honeymoon. "I'm still going to keep working six days a week," he told the New York Post. He should probably look into a trust for his winnings too.

Talk about turning over a new leaf in preparation for the new year...

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