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Facing foreclosure, man finds a winning ticket in cookie jar

CHICAGO – Maybe you’ve heard this story before. Or dreamt it.

Man cleans out old lottery tickets from cookie jar, and instead of throwing them away takes them to the 7-Eleven to check them out. And finds one of them is worth millions.

It gets better for Ricardo Cerezo of Geneva. He says his family was facing eviction and he’ll use the winnings – $4.85 million – to pay off the home.

“It couldn’t have happened at a better time,” Cerezo, a management consultant, told reporters. “I just thought, this is how God works.”

Cerezo said his wife was cleaning out the kitchen and mentioned the lottery tickets that had accumulated over the past month in a glass cookie jar.

“It was either take them, get them checked, or she was going to trash them that night,” he said.

Cerezo said he took the tickets to a 7-Eleven in Aurora, and scanned them. The first eight or nine tickets weren’t winners.

“The following one was $3, so I was excited. I get to pay for my Pepsi. And then the last one said file a claim,” he said, which meant it was worth at least $600.

Cerezo went online and found that the numbers matched the Feb. 2 Lotto drawing.

“As each number kept matching, the smile kept going higher and higher. And when I realized we had all six numbers, it was that shocking moment of, ‘Whoa, can this really be?’’’ he said in a news conference Wednesday. “Fast forward to the next day, Monday: Called in sick from work, went down into Chicago. It’s one of feelings where it’s okay if they fire me.”

After he waited about half an hour, Cerezo said lottery officials brought him into a room and said his ticket was worth $4.85 million.

Just three months earlier, Cerezo appeared at a foreclosure hearing where a judge gave him a few more months to find a new home before they would be evicted.

“That was on Feb. 12, so we were sitting on $4 million at that time in this jar,” he said. “We will have our home paid off.”

Cerezo said February holds special significance for him and his family because his daughter Savannah was born in that month. She died from a sudden illness last year at 14.

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