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Long IslandNassau

Jerry Ritieni, Massapequa auto body shop owner, wins $2.9M Lotto jackpot

Lotto jackpot winner Jerry Ritieni, an auto body

Lotto jackpot winner Jerry Ritieni, an auto body shop owner in Massapequa, opted for a onetime payment of $1,241,407. Ritieni, 48, said he'll use the money to help his family.

For over a month, the lottery ticket that would change Jerry Ritieni's life bounced around -- from its point of purchase to the console of his truck to his pants pocket to a spot beneath his workplace keyboard.

Finally, last Thursday, Ritieni said, he had a free moment to check the numbers against the New York Lottery website.

Moments later Tracy Gregory, one of his employees at Extreme Auto Body in Massapequa, came in, noticed he was unusually quiet and asked if he were OK.

"I think I won the Lotto," she said he told her. "Could you check the numbers for me?"

Indeed, her boss was a $2.9 million winner.

The reality didn't sink in, Ritieni said, until he and his 17-year-old son took the ticket to the Plainview office of the New York Lottery, where, sure enough, the numbers matched.

"That's when it really sunk in that -- holy cow -- I won the lottery," said Ritieni, father of two from Massapequa who turns 48 on Saturday.

The saga began July 18, he said, when he made his ritual stop for gas, coffee, snacks and, in this case, $10 worth of lottery tickets at the Cumberland Farms in Syosset, which he visits any time he's heading upstate or to his house in Vermont.

Instead of putting the tickets in the regular spot over the visor, "for some odd reason," he said, he stashed them in the truck's center console -- where they were forgotten.

Two weeks ago on another trip north, he said he was fishing around in the console for the keys to the Vermont home and came across the tickets, which he then put in his pocket, to be moved under the keyboard when he got back to his shop.

While Ritieni did walk away with a keepsake check after claiming the prize in Plainview, he'll "have to wait a bit longer for that really big check we give to all of our Lotto millionaires," a lottery spokeswoman said, as the regular "due diligence" background check and ticket validation are conducted before ceremonial-check-presentation ceremonies are scheduled.

As for what the money means to him, which the lottery says would be close to $1.9 million if he opts for the one-lump sum: The relief of having his children's future "off my shoulders," he said.

"My daughter's college is set, my son's college is set, weddings are taken care of . . . I'm old-school Italian," Ritieni said. "Your children come before you."

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