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A resident of a small town in Maryland hit the jackpot of $ 731 million: now everyone is asking for money from him, even people from neighboring states

Tucked between gentle green mountains in the far western reaches of Maryland, this small town hasn't had many big wins. Coal brought the work, then took it away. The railroad meant prosperity, and then it stopped working. Here they made glass, and then they stopped. How the $ 731 million win shook the entire town and beyond, the newspaper said The Washington Post.

Photo: Shutterstock

These days, the queue of cars for food distribution in this town is so long that volunteers split each box into two smaller parts to feed more families.

But over the past few weeks, Lonaconing (the locals call it "Horses") has taken on a new shine. In late January, someone bought a Powerball lottery ticket on Coney Market, and six numbers of that ticket won $ 731 million - the largest jackpot in Maryland and the fifth largest in US history.

According to the market owner, this someone lives in Lonaconing. But since Maryland is one of seven states in which lottery winners can remain anonymous, this person's identity has not been disclosed.

The fact that someone in this city of 1200 suddenly became a millionaire has caused some strange things.

An anonymous letter was circulated in which the 76-year-old grandfather of seven children was named the winner. Besieged by requests for money, they denied that they were suddenly multimillionaires.

Money lovers poured into the city. People came from Georgia, Ohio and Arkansas - they asked for part of the prize for caring for a sick relative, saving their poverty-stricken farm, paying for the trip they dreamed of making.

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A woman from Georgia wrote to the owner of Coney Market asking him to buy her a pair of chainsaws for her farm. Another petitioner wanted a portion of his lottery winnings to pave the driveway.

“They say, 'If you don’t ask, you don’t get it,” said Coney Market owner Richard Ravenscroft. “The petitioners do not know the name of the winner. I am the person whose name they know, so they turn to me. "

People thousands of miles away sent money in envelopes asking market workers to send them lottery tickets from a fortune store. Lottery sales in the market (usually modest - $ 4000 per week) skyrocketed for a while.

Visitors from the city climbed mountains to bet the same numbers the big winner had bet on: 40, 53, 60, 68, 69 and Powerball 22. Some townspeople thought the winning numbers might be the ones the winner had bet on. This is not true, the jackpot combination was a random set of numbers selected by the lottery machine.

A man from Northern Virginia came to ask Rivenscroft to reissue a winning lottery ticket he allegedly lost.

Because of the big money, it's not just outsiders who fuss. People from all over the town are eagerly awaiting who will declare himself the winner. “Some of them are pretty impatient,” said Debbie Bennett, Coney Market manager. "They're asking the winner to donate a ton of money to improve life in a city where the poverty rate is 24%, which is double the statewide rate."

Many people say that the first need is to get water out of the house. Some call it "mine water" rising from old coal mines into the homes of people whose fathers once worked in these tunnels. Or they ask to fix the streets, help needy shopkeepers, give some money to the elderly.

But the first thing that comes to mind is the simplest question: who won? The gold ticket was purchased in January, and the winner (the winners themselves) is a group of unknown size calling themselves the Power Pack, which announced the award at the end of May. The $ 731 million will end up being $ 367 million because the winners chose a lump sum over a 30-year installment plan, plus the federal and state governments take a hefty cut in taxes.

By now, many think there must be some indication that someone has gone through such a significant change.

“Everyone is still wondering 'Who is this?'” Said Bob Fasenbaker, 67, a retired employee at an auto parts store down the road from the market.

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Some say that they noticed one or two new cars in a particular house. Others point to someone who has tidied up the front of the house. There are those who say they don’t care, but there are still fewer of them than those who say they know exactly who won.

At the same time, Bennett stressed: "We can all be wrong."

Fortunately, there are some people in Kony who definitely didn’t hit the Powerball jackpot yet feel like a winner.

In the market, the employees are a bit relaxed. The Maryland Lottery awards a $ 100 bonus to the store that sold the winning ticket, and Ravenscroft, the owner, "gave us some of the money," Bennett said.

Depending on how many hours they work, they get anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand.

Ravenscroft invested most of the bonus in expanding the market - a new kitchen and a large seating area. But some of the new equipment just stands in the store, waiting for the owner to find workers who will assemble it all.

“We can't find anyone to work because everyone is sitting at home and receiving unemployment benefits,” Bennett said.

Mayor John Coburn said Lonaconing was the winner because the jackpot "put the city on the map" by attracting visitors and making it famous.

Coburn, who owns a flower shop and a pizzeria, has firsthand felt the passion of people for free money: strangers continued to call his stores and asked, even demanded, that the mayor give them part of the winnings.

“We've heard from homeless shelters, refugee centers, people wanting to build a church,” he said. - People asked me for a new car. I tried to be polite, but I had to say, "Please stop calling." It really showed me the other side of people who are eligible for help. ”

Alas, the Lonaconing authorities will not get a dime from the lottery because Coney Market, a shopping center right at the entrance to the city, is one block outside the city. The state government where the ticket was sold (according to the mayor, this is a random amount of several million dollars), will instead travel to Allegany County.

In the store, things are gradually returning to normal. Ravenscroft said the number of nonresidents asking for money has dropped, although some still come with letters and want him to pass them on to the lottery winner.

“I throw them in the bin,” he admitted.

Lonaconing's needs remain acute - so great that some residents say that even the most generous lottery winner cannot make a difference.

“The coal mine closed, the forest was gone, the trains stopped running and everything was gone,” said Robert Lee Fasenbaker, an 84-year-old retired miner, railroad worker and kiln operator who saw all of his jobs disappear. He lives mainly on social security and coronavirus benefits paid by the federal government, and Robert doesn't know what will happen when they end. But he wants nothing from the lottery winners. In his opinion, someone was lucky.

“Well done,” he says. "These people don't owe us anything."

“Trump gave us money. Biden also gave us, - he states. - But there is still no work. We all cannot win the lottery. "

Almost everyone in Lonaconing is convinced that Wilbur Miller and Nancy Weinbrenner won.

“These are good people and they deserve it. We're happy for them, ”said Bennett, store manager.

“Everyone respects them,” echoes Gloria Cooper, who is responsible for distributing food in the church. "Nobody takes offense at them."

Miller and Weinbrenner were inundated with requests for money, gifts, charitable donations and meetings.

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It got to the point that now the spouses cannot leave the house, so they turned to the authorities for help. They hired a lawyer to defend themselves against harassment. Finally, the couple wrote a letter to the local Cumberland Times-News.

“We want to dispel the rumors of $ 731 million Powerball winners in Maryland,” wrote Miller and Weinbrenner. - Unfortunately, others won this drawing. We don't have this ticket! "

The couple advised "everyone to take a closer look at drawers, car consoles or coat pockets:" Who knows, maybe you are the owner of the lucky ticket. "

The letter says: "We have no idea how these false rumors came about, but we are writing this to dispel them."

The mayor of the city confirmed that it was not them. When the winner traveled to Baltimore to receive the award, “Wilbur was with me all day,” Coburn said. "He didn't leave town."

Miller and Weinbrenner did not respond to requests for comment, but the mayor stressed that the stories about his longtime friend were fake. Yes, Miller went to the casino, Coburn explained, but "he always did it before and after someone won." No, Miller has not changed his lifestyle and, as before, works every day - he is a truck driver, collects metal and takes it to the junkyard.

Some people don't believe this.

Miller and Weinbrenner, Cooper noted, "used to come for food — now they don't."

Still, confident that they are winners, Cooper said new millionaires shouldn't feel obligated to support the rest of Lonaconing. As a continuous stream of cars arrives to pick up boxes of sweet potatoes, onions, apples, zucchini and cucumbers, people prefer to thank more for what they have than talk about what they want or deserve help. from the winners.

According to Coburn, if these lucky ones "keep their current way of life, we will never know who they are."

Back at the market, Ravenscroft arrived with bank money so his cashiers could deposit change. Then they took the sandwiches and delivered them to the school - lunch for the teachers.

He has a theory about the identity of the winner, but does not name. The man he is thinking of walked into the store to buy lottery tickets before each draw. This man has not returned since the big win.

A winner can't hide forever, Ravenscroft said. After winning millions, you will want to spend some of them. Then pressure from friends, family, neighbors and gold prospectors will become impossible.

“Over time, we will find out the winners,” summed up the store owner.

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