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Costco workers win $201 million Powerball

Mitul Patel, owner of the Maulik & Chandni

Mitul Patel, owner of the Maulik & Chandni store on West Montauk Highway, says the store has had previous big winners, but never as big as the latest Powerball ticket holder. (June 2, 2011) Credit: Jim Staubitser

The newest Powerball jackpot winners might shop at Costco in the future, but there's a good chance they'll no longer need to work there.

A group of about 20 employees, all of whom work at the Costco store on Route 110 in Melville, hit the big time Wednesday night -- snagging the lone winning combination in the nationwide $201.9 million drawing.

It's the biggest lottery prize ever won on Long Island.

Whatever early celebrating the new millionaires did was private. A Costco official had told reporters the employees would come forward in a news conference at the store Thursday, but it was called off.

Employees who declined to give their names because they were not authorized to speak to the media said about 100 people work at the Melville Costco, about 20 of whom are in the "lottery club."

The group was organized, they said, by an older employee who often worked as a greeter. He was said to have quit his job on the spot Thursday morning after learning he had a piece of the jackpot, employees said.

Parking lot worker Andrew Semel said the store was suddenly lighter on staff.

"If I'd won, I wouldn't be here today," he said as he gathered shopping carts. "I'd call my wife and say, 'You know what? Let's buy a house.' I'd buy a house with a big backyard, pay it all off. That's it."

Many employees said they did not know for sure who was in the club. One who said she was not, Marisol Taveras, of Copiague, said she had spoken to one winner. "She said she is going to keep working," Taveras said. "Everything is still the same."

One employee, leaving the store after hours, said only: "I respect their privacy. I'm happy for them. But I can't comment."

Michael Barnett, 62, a retiree from Syosset who has shopped at the Melville store for 10 years, said it was "wonderful" the workers won.

"I'm happy for them," Barnett said. "They work really hard."

The winning ticket, a Quick Pick, was bought at the Maulik & Chandni stationery store on West Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst. The numbers were 8, 18, 38, 46 and 56, with the Powerball 31.

A sign outside Maulik & Chandni Thursday read: "We had $200 million winner."

"It's a lot," store owner Mitul Patel told Newsday.

A woman walking toward the store saw the sign, stepped back, and said: "Oh, my God. They couldn't have sold me that ticket?"

Powerball tickets are sold in 31 states, as well as in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Powerball jackpot hadn't been hit since April 23, when one winning ticket for a $72 million first prize was sold in Indiana.

With Gary Dymski, Patrick Whittle, Nicholas Spangler

and Zachary R. Dowdy

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