New York Lottery's big winners share their stories

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Natives of Albania, Guyana and Ireland were among the eight New York Lottery winners to receive ceremonial checks totaling $13.5 million at a ceremony Thursday in Manhattan, lottery officials said.

Here are their stories, according to a news release from New York Lottery:

* Euglen Muslli, who came to New York City six years ago from Albania, experienced a swift and surprising fulfillment of the American dream.

"It was my dream to have money; a lot of money to spend on things I want," said Muslli, 21, a self-taught electrician's helper.

The Bay Ridge resident bought scratch-off tickets for the $1,500 a Week for Life at Yogi smoke shop on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn.

Scratching his tickets, he said, "I saw that word 'Life' and thought, 'Whoa. You're a millionaire!' "

He said he never thought he would actually win, "but, I had hope," he said. "God bless the Lottery."

Opting for the cash value of his guaranteed $1.5 million minimum payout, Muslli is walking away with a net of $740,626.

He said he'll use the money to help his family, to buy a house and possibly to open a restaurant -- "an Italian restaurant, of course," he said.

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* After texting her husband a copy of her $5 million Maximum Millions winning ticket, Geraldine Pollice opted to ignore his instructions to "go straight home and put the ticket under the mattress."

"I went shopping instead," said Pollice, 45, of Bensonhurst.

Ultimately she and her husband, Fredinando, 46, a telecommunications technician, plan to use the money to shop for a new car and home, as well as earmark some for retirement.

The stay-home mom bought the scratch-off ticket last month while picking up a newspaper at the Smoke Stax III store on 18th Avenue in Brooklyn.

Checking the ticket at her car, she said, "I saw a match on the number 38 and then all the zeros and thought, this can't be true. I couldn't believe it because I didn't have my glasses. I thought, 'There's too many zeros.' "

She and her husband each are receiving a net of $1,557,600.

* On his way to his family's country house in upstate Greene County, Arthur Berg, 74, stopped at Stewart's on Route 23 in Leeds to buy a $2 Quick Pick ticket for the April 26 Powerball drawing.

The recently retired attorney -- and avid Powerball player -- missed out on the $40 million jackpot, but did win the $1 million second prize.

Berg, of Brooklyn, who opted for a single payment totaling $661,800, did not share his plans for the money.

* While on a snack break from his job as a Rockefeller Center security guard, Rafik Sulaiman, 59, says he scratched his King's Ransom ticket and found he was a $3 million top prize winner.

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"I saw the little coin symbol and then the word 'Jackpot' underneath," said the Guyana native, who now lives in Astoria, "so I took it back to the store to double check." That would be Pronto Pizza on West 48th Street in Manhattan, where he bought the $10 ticket from a vending machine.

Sulaiman, a married father of three and grandfather of five, opted for a lump sum net payment of $1,517,654.

As for uses for his winnings, he said, "My only plan is to get the money and then decide."

* A while back John Sandrowsky of Bayside got an email from his wife, Nancy, who was checking his Powerball tickets online.

"I think you won something," she wrote.

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"Can I quit my job," he emailed back.

She told him no, but added, "I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised," with his $1 million second prize winnings from the Feb. 19 drawing, which had been held weeks earlier.

"I never checked my numbers," said Sandrowsky, a JetBlue aircraft maintenance manager, who bought the ticket at Richard Enterprises on 35th Avenue in Bayside.

He'll receive a single net payment of $623,040, the lottery said, and he plans to pay some bills and donate to a local charity.

* Unable to sleep and realizing in the early morning hours that he was holding a $1 million winning Ruby 2s scratch-off ticket, Salvatore Montante, 75, first woke up his son who was sleeping on the couch. They then woke up his other son, living in the basement apartment, and the three of them called his daughter who lives nearby.

The family members spent the next hours "talking, laughing and celebrating" his good fortune, said Montante, who is known as Sal, a former construction laborer and iron worker, of Annadale in Staten Island.

Montante had a match on the number 23 on the ticket he bought last month at the Bay & Bath Market on Bay Parkway in Brooklyn. "It's a special number to me," he said -- the day of his son's birthday and that of his late wife.

Montante will receive a one-time net payment of $623,040, some of which he said will go toward bills, and some, hopefully, to a trip to Italy to visit the brother he hasn't seen in more than 30 years.

* Of his $1 million Sweet Million jackpot win, Timothy Brassil, 67, says the money is pretty well spoken for.

"I've got college tuition loans, a wedding and a grandchild on the way," said the retired construction worker from Mount Vernon, who is a native of Ireland.

"I was stunned," he said after learning of his win in the April 24 drawing. "So stunned I didn't tell me wife for a week!"

The father of three will receive a lump sum of $661,800, the Lottery said, and hopes to set some aside for a visit to Ireland.

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