20 Costco workers collect lottery winnings

Yolanda Vega is at the Melville Costco to present the June 1 Powerball jackpot to the winners, who range in age from 24 to 73. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (June 16, 2011)

Timing is everything -- in this case $200 million.

That's because if Anthony Manzolillo had not mistakenly left the lottery money at home, it's likely he and 19 co-workers at the Melville Costco wouldn't be multimillionaires, celebrating their fortunes Thursday with giant ceremonial lottery checks at a news conference outside the store.

On May 31, the Lindenhurst resident went to a local stationery store to buy tickets for the next day's Powerball drawing. But he'd forgotten the $120 he'd collected, and went home to get the money. Since the winning numbers were on a Quick Pick ticket, where numbers are randomly chosen by a Lottery computer, his brief memory lapse turned out to be the club's stroke of luck. If he purchased the ticket when planned, Quick Pick computers may not have drawn the same numbers.

All this happened a few weeks after the group started buying tickets, kicking in $5 each per week. They hit the $201.9 million jackpot June 1. That's $3.5 million each in one-time lump-sum payments after taxes, according to the New York Lottery.

The winners talked yesterday about the dreams some have for their newfound wealth.

Some want to hit Vegas, others want to get better wheels and one simply wants to move out of Mom and Dad's house.

"I'm gonna send my kids to, hopefully, Harvard," said Cindy Magnes, 46, a vault clerk who lives in Farmingdale.

Jasper Corso, 60, a pharmacist from Woodbury, said he plans to have a "blowout barbecue" and then gamble in Vegas.

And Manzolillo, at 73 the oldest of the group, said, "I plan to retire for the third time."

The group formed a legal entity called the 1937 Flatbush Avenue Dodgers LLC to accept the payout. The name refers to Manzolillo's birth year, the Brooklyn street where he grew up, and his favorite baseball team as a child, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Members of the group said Manzolillo would come around the store collecting money from whoever wanted to participate. They jumped into the Powerball when the jackpot was at $144 million, said Kim Karkota, 37, a merchandise manager from Mastic.

On the morning of June 1, Ralph Green, 61, a security worker from Copiague and the early bird of the group, got up at 4 a.m. to check the results. He said that when their number seemed to match the winning number, he couldn't believe it.

"I kept shaking my head, clearing my eyes," he said. "I was walking around in a daze for a while." He awakened his wife to tell her, and then started texting other employees.

One was Karkota, who said she held off calling Manzolillo immediately. "I didn't want to call Anthony at 5 in the morning and wake him up and give him a heart attack," she said.

But she couldn't resist for long and called at 5:07 a.m., she said. By 6 a.m. Manzolillo started calling the other employees, Karkota said, and by 9 a.m. they all knew -- even Corso, who was in Mexico on vacation.

At the news conference, Manzolillo shook his head as their story was told.

"He changed our lives," said Allen VanDett, the husband of winner Jaime VanDett, 27, a photo department employee from Lindenhurst. "He's a very religious man, and he changed 19 lives -- and himself."

With Jeremy Schneider, Mikala Jamison, Ibrahim Hirsi and Alison Eaves

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Vote

Would you keep your day job if you won the Powerball jackpot?

Yes No

advertisement | advertise on newsday