Iowa man gets $1M Mega Millions lottery prize with help of 'mistake' – Burlington Hawk Eye

WEST BURLINGTON — A West Burlington man is the winner of a $1 million lottery payout from a Mega Millions ticket sold at a local convenience store. 
Josh Buster, 40, who works as a prep chef at a Burlington restaurant, purchased the winning ticket from MK Mini Mart at 101 E. Mount Pleasant St. in West Burlington and claimed his prize from Iowa Lottery headquarters in Clive on Monday afternoon.
Buster’s winning ticket matched the first five numbers of Friday’s drawing but missed the Mega Ball that would have gotten the winner a share of the $20 million jackpot. The winning numbers were 4-17-20-46-64 and Mega Ball was 23.
In an Iowa Lottery release, Buster said he might not have won had it not been for a happy mistake.
Buster said he asked for five easy-pick plays for the drawing, but the clerk initially printed just one. The clerk then asked Buster if he could print four more plays for him on a separate ticket, Buster said.
“I feel like that changed the numbers that I would have gotten if he had put them all on one instead of making that mistake,” Buster said.
Bishwo Paudel, whose family has operated MK Mini Mart for the past 12 years, said Buster purchased $10 worth of Mega Millions tickets there Thursday and returned Saturday to inform the employee who sold them to him, Emmett Snelling, that one was a winner. 
“He knew before the lottery rep contacted us,” Paudel said. “He only bought five tickets. He had scratch-off winnings, so he used that to buy some scratch-offs and some extra MegaBall Mega Millions.”
Buster told Mary Neubauer, vice president of external relations for the Iowa Lottery, that he got up early Saturday and scanned the tickets he had stored in the console of his car using a lottery app.
“I scanned it in the car and freaked out and ran back inside,” he said. “I don’t usually have good luck, so I thought it was a mistake and there was going to be an error. So I Googled the lottery numbers to make sure I had the right ones, and I did! And then the rest of the day, I’m just waiting to wake up from a dream.”
MK Mini Mart was contacted by Iowa Lottery representatives later that day and informed that as the seller of the winning ticket, the store will receive a $1,000 bonus. Paudel said he plans to distribute the bonus money among the store’s five employees and managerial staff. 
Snelling was not available for comment Monday, but Paudel said both his employee and the lottery winner are excited. 
The ticket sold by Snelling is the largest winner sold at the store to date, Paudel said. He said previous amounts won from purchases there were from scratch-offs for $20,000 and $25,000. 
According to Neubauer, vice president of external relations for the Iowa Lottery, five-number Mega Millions matches are one in about 12.6 million, while the chance of matching five Powerball numbers is one in about 11.7 million.
The Iowa Lottery has offices in Cedar Rapids, Mason City and Storm Lake, where winners of up to and including $250,000 can claim their prize. Anything above that amount must be collected through Iowa Lottery headquarters in Clive. 
“The person has up to 365 days from the date of the drawing,” Neubauer said. “Generally, with a prize of this size, it’s claimed a lot more quickly than that.”
Such was the case with Buster, who left the Clive office with his check just after 2 p.m. 
Neubauer recommends that high-dollar lottery winners consult a tax adviser, financial planner or an attorney before collecting their prize money so they can better understand the tax implications. 
Million-dollar Mega Millions and Powerball payouts are cash prizes, meaning the winners leave Clive with a check for the prize amount minus 24% federal and 5% state withholdings the same day. 
For Buster, that meant a check for $710,000. 
“The withholdings are designed to cover the tax implications for a win like this, but the total tax liability that someone will have is dependent upon their circumstances outside of winning the lottery,” Neubauer said. “For some people, the withholding is too much and they get some of that money back when they file their taxes next year. For other folks, the withholding is not enough and they need to make additional arrangements for that.”
Winners must bring their winning ticket with them, as well as a non-expired form of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. 
Iowa law requires that lottery winners’ names be public, so anonymous claims are not possible, Neubauer said. 
The West Burlington prize is the second of at least $1 million won this year in Iowa, according to the Iowa Lottery office. In January, a New Hampton couple won $2 million via Powerball. 
That biggest prize ever won in Iowa was by Lerynne West, a Redfield resident who claimed a $343.9 million Powerball payout in October 2018. 
More:Redfield woman steps forward as Iowa Powerball jackpot winner
Since the Iowa Lottery’s start in 1985, players have won more than $5 billion in prizes while the lottery has raised more than $2.2 billion for state programs, including the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund and the state’s general fund. 
Neubauer said previous lottery winners have used their prize money for everything from new cars and homes to retirement planning. 
“Here in Iowa, often we hear folks saying they’re going to buy a new home or make additions or upgrades to their existing home. Certainly, new cars are on the list,” Neubauer said. “But we have a lot of folks who are planning for retirement, maybe planning for their own education or their children’s or their grandchildren’s education. I think it’s a lot of those real-world dreams that everybody has, but they just become a lot more possible when you have winnings like this.”
Buster said he likely will use some of his winnings to pay off his car and the mortgage on his mother’s house, then will put the rest away for retirement.
“It will take away a lot of my stress in my life —no more of the financial worries,” he said.
Mega Millions drawings take place on Tuesdays and Fridays. Tuesday’s estimated jackpot is $20 million. 
Powerball drawings are Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Monday’s estimated jackpot was $348 million.
Michaele Niehaus covers business, development, environment and agriculture for The Hawk Eye. She can be reached at [email protected]

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