Kansas finds its Mega Millions winner

The world-record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot has found a winner in Kansas, but two-thirds of the winnings have yet to be claimed a full week after the lottery was drawn.

Kansas lottery chief Dennis Wilson said his state's winner turned up at his offices in Topeka shortly before noon Friday with a lawyer and financial officer in tow and a request to stay out of the headlines.

"We were so thrilled to meet with the winner earlier today and welcome the winner to the Kansas millionaire family," Wilson said.

"Even though the winner has elected to remain anonymous, there is great reason for celebration across the state."

Careful not to disclose the winner's age, hometown or even gender, Wilson said he or she had opted for a single check for $110.5 million -- a third of the jackpot minus taxes -- in lieu of 26 yearly installments.

Tickets with the winning combination of 2, 4, 23, 38, 46 plus Mega Ball 23 -- drawn last Friday -- were sold in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland amid an unprecedented nationwide lottery-buying frenzy.

Wilson said the winner, a regular lottery player, was unaware of his or her Mega Millions windfall prior to checking the ticket number on Monday.

"They actually just checked the tickets of all the games they had purchased and found out they were the winner," he said.

"They checked it over 10 times to make sure they were reading it right, to verify it, and they still had a hard time believing it."

Despite Wilson's use of the plural "they," a Kansas state lottery spokeswoman confirmed to AFP in an email that there was just one winner, and not a group that had pooled money to buy tickets.

In Maryland, a 37-year-old Haitian-born mother of seven who claimed at the start of the week that she held a winning Mega Millions ticket told a Washington television station that she had "misplaced" it.

Colleagues at the McDonald's fast-food outlet in Baltimore where Mirlande Wilson is an assistant manager disputed her claim that the ticket was hers, arguing they were part of a workplace pool and entitled to share the loot.

Wilson told The New York Post that she had won using a ticket she had bought for herself - not the tickets she had bought on behalf of her co-workers.

"I was in the group, but this was separate. The winning ticket was a separate ticket," she told the newspaper.

She later said she's not sure she was really a mega-millionaire.

"I don't know if I won. Some of the numbers were familiar. I recognized some of (them)," she told the Post.

The details are similar to those in the case of a New Jersey construction worker who last month was found by a judge to have ripped off his colleagues in an office pool.

In that case, the man's co-workers had to rely on witnesses to prove that he had had collected cash from his co-workers for the lottery.

The judge ordered him to share the money with other members of the pool.

Winners have until September 28 to come forward, Maryland state lottery director Stephen Martino told reporters Thursday, adding that "we will wait... until someone walks through our door" with the correct ticket.

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