The couple who are about to claim the record-shattering $162-million Mega Millions jackpot are lifelong Long Islanders - high school sweethearts who have been married for 39 years and are "just getting by" financially, their lawyer said Friday.
At one point in their marriage, they were "extremely poor." And since about 2004, they've again found themselves on the brink of poverty.
"They were almost forced into a survival existence for the last four or five years," said attorney Michael Solomon.
But their misfortune is about to end in this new year, as the modest couple prepares to cash in the winning ticket they bought last month at a Rocky Point card store.
Solomon said his clients - whom he won't yet identify - have never lost hope that "something good will happen" to them in life.
"Even in the roughest times of their life, they've always believed that there would be justice either in their lifetime or after their lifetime," Solomon said.
The winning ticket, which will be paid out in a lump sum, is expected to be more than $100 million before taxes.
The winning numbers were 3, 33, 35, 39, 45 and Megaball 13.
Their jubilation was tempered by frustration Thursday, Solomon says, by the response he got when he phoned the state lottery agency's Prize Payment Office in Albany - a number listed in the lottery's own Winners' Handbook posted on its Web site.
Solomon says he called about 9 a.m. and was told to call back Monday.
The lottery's reaction flabbergasted Solomon and his clients, he said, and reinforces a belief his clients have long had that the government has strayed from the U.S. Constitution's notion that government must be run by "we the people."
"The people are supposed to be running government," Solomon said.
" 'We the people' aren't running it," he said. "The government's running itself."
Lottery spokeswoman Jennifer Givner says Solomon should have been told to go to one of the agency's regional offices - the closest one is in Garden City, she said.
Givner said lottery officials are looking into his assertions, adding that they haven't been able to verify them thus far.
Referring to the Albany-area number that Solomon said he called, she said: "Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time it's answered and callers get the help that they need."