One lucky winner bought the nation’s only matching Powerball ticket worth more than $2 billion at an Altadena gas station, becoming California’s first billionaire-by-lottery, state lottery officials said Tuesday.
The winner hasn’t yet come forward, but Joseph Chahayed, the owner of the service station on West Woodbury Road, said he was hopeful the new billionaire would come from the neighborhood.
In the meantime, Chahayed is celebrating a windfall of his own. Lottery officials surprised him at his store at 5:45 a.m. with news that he’d be receiving a $1-million bonus check for selling the $2.04-billion jackpot-winning ticket.
The 75-year-old owner of Joe’s Service Center, now an ExxonMobil franchise, said he plans on sharing the money with his 11 grandchildren and the rest of his family.
“I’m happy for California; I’m happy for L.A.,” Chahayed said. “I’m more happy for Altadena. There are a lot of poor people here; they deserve it.”
Sporting a California Lottery hat and shirt, and an “I voted” sticker, Chahayed said that while he is glad to share his bonus money with family, he is more excited about the money set to go to California schools as well as the possibility of a newly minted local billionaire investing in the Altadena community.
California’s schools will receive $156.3 million from the jackpot, which is the highest contribution from a single roll in California Lottery history, officials said.
Chahayed’s son Danny, who helps run the 20-year-old family-owned and -operated business, said the gas station has sold winning lottery tickets before, but the prizes have always been in the thousands.
Tuesday’s winner will get an exponentially larger amount.
“I’m hoping the person who won is actually from the community, so that way they know the struggles of the people around here and they can give back,” Danny Chahayed said, echoing his father’s sentiments.
Even with the day’s excitement, Joseph Chahayed was level-headed about what will come next. His son has told him he should retire, but slowing down isn’t on Chahayed’s agenda.
“I’m 75, still young,” he said. “I will be here tomorrow at 6 o’clock. I love work.”
Danny called his father a true “people person,” and said he enjoys getting to know people as he sells lottery tickets, snacks and gas.
“He loves people,” Danny Chahayed said. “He just loves interacting with people on a daily basis.”
Neighbors and customers streamed in to congratulate the station owner, hugging him as though he were family.
“He deserves it,” said Kenny Devine, a friend, neighbor and longtime customer.
Devine and his sister posed for a photo with Chahayed before gushing even more about his friend.
“He’s just an excellent person … everybody loves Joe,” he said. “This is the only place I get my gas, even when the prices go up.”
Another customer ran up to Chahayed, shouting “Congratulations, bro!” and shook his hand while a woman stood nearby taking a cellphone video as Chahayed chatted with local media.
“Couldn’t have happened to a better person,” said Clarence Goin, another longtime friend and neighbor who stopped by for the excitement.
Anticipation over the record-setting lottery drawing had grown as the jackpot ballooned for weeks.
Suspense reached a fever pitch Monday evening when lottery officials delayed the scheduled drawing.
The Powerball drawing ended up being postponed 10 hours due to a security issue in another state, with the winning numbers announced just before 6 a.m. Pacific time Tuesday. By 10 a.m., California Lottery officials confirmed that someone bought the winning ticket at Joe’s Service Center, matching all six Powerball numbers.
Powerball officials did not confirm details of the security issue that delayed the drawing or where it occurred.
The jackpot was reported as an estimated $1.9 billion Monday night but rose to $2.04 billion by Tuesday morning after updated calculations. The previous Powerball record of $1.586 billion was set in 2016 and shared by winners in California, Florida and Tennessee.
California Lottery spokesperson Greg Parashak said the cash value of the jackpot comes in just below $1 billion, at $997.6 million.
“It’s a lot of money,” Parashak said. “I would imagine this person’s going to take their time [coming forward].”
The winning numbers in the drawing held in Tallahassee, Fla., were 10, 33, 41, 47 and 56. The red Powerball number was 10.
There were three other big winners in California on Tuesday, matching five of the winning Powerball numbers for a $1.15-million prize. Those tickets were sold at Stues Dairy in Gardena, Oak Valley 76 in Beaumont and 1001 Castro Street Market in San Francisco.
The odds of winning the latest jackpot were 1 in 292 million, according to the California Lottery.