Unemployed man nearly lost winning $273M Mega Millions ticket

Image: Mega Millions Jackpot Becomes Largest Prize In U.S. History at $1.6
Mega Millions lottery tickets sit inside a convenience store in Lower Manhattan, Oct. 23, 2018 in New York City. Copyright Drew Angerer Getty Images
By Doha Madani with NBC News U.S. News
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"I put the tickets down to put my money away and did something with my phone and just walked away," the 54-year-old winner said.


The New Jersey man who scored a $273 million Mega Millions jackpot almost left behind his winning ticket at the convenience store where he bought it.

A stranger saved Michael J. Weirsky, 54, from missing out on the prize after that person found two $2 lottery tickets Weirsky forgot on the counter of a Quick Chek where he bought them in rural Warren County.

Weirsky said at a press conference Thursday that he left the slips behind over "the typical cellphone deal."

"I was paying more attention to my cellphone," he said. "I put the tickets down to put my money away and did something with my phone and just walked away."

The store held the tickets for him, and Weirsky managed to pick them up the next day.

One of his slips was worth a $273 million jackpot, according to the New Jersey Lottery. His one-time payment will be $162.5 million before state and federal taxes.

Weirsky said he has met with a lawyer and a financial adviser, and as soon as they tell him he can "go crazy" he plans on enjoying the money. He said he is interested in buying a Ford Raptor pickup truck and taking his family on a vacation.

"I always wanted to know what it would be like to wake up and just decide to go somewhere and just do it," he said. "When I get the money, I'm going to do that. I'm going to try that."

Weirsky, who lives just east of the Delaware River in Alpha, said the money will "change everything" for him because he's been unemployed for years. He spent the last 15 years unemployed while his former wife worked. They divorced in October.

The last year has been filled with odd jobs and a fruitless job search because of his lack of employment history, Weirsky said.

"At 54 years old, I was getting offered $8 an hour, $10 an hour jobs," Weirsky told NBC News Thursday. "I knew I couldn't survive off that."

He said he is now planning to take it easy for a while and figure out what he'd like to do next.

Weirsky's next move, though, is to track down the person who returned his winning tickets to the store cashier. Weirsky told NBC News he wants to meet with the person privately and offer some kind of reward.

"I wouldn't have $273 million if it wasn't for them, they would have it," Weirsky said, getting emotional. "So if they're that honest, they're good enough people for me."

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