With jackpots starting at $40 million and a number of amazing secondary prizes, the US Mega Millions lottery has made many big winners and changed many lives in the blink of an eye. With Mega Millions, you can become a millionaire even if you don’t match all the winning numbers because the secondary prizes are just that big.
The second prize is worth $1 million and can even increase up to $5 million if you decide to play with the Megaplier. But, our curiosity will always be raised by top jackpots and those who managed to win them. Who are the biggest US Mega Millions jackpot winners? Let us introduce you to their stories!
1. Anonymous Winner – $1.53 Billion – October 23rd, 2018
The US Mega Millions lottery passed the US$1-billion threshold in lotto jackpots for the first time in history in October 2018. A worldwide frenzy began as the pot grew bigger and bigger until it reached a mouth-watering US$1.53 billion. It came incredibly close to breaking the world record, which still belongs to the US Powerball and its US$1.56 billion jackpot of 2016. What the Mega Millions did manage to do is to set a new record for the largest lottery win on a single ticket because, to everybody’s surprise, the second largest jackpot of all times was won by a single ticket holder from South Carolina.
For more than four months after the big Mega Millions win of October 23rd, 2018, there was complete silence. Everybody was dying to know who the winner was and, then, if the billion-dollar prize would be claimed at all. Finally, in March 2019, the South Carolina winner came forward to take home the enormous jackpot. This happens to be one of the few states that permits lottery winners to stay anonymous and, unsurprisingly, the winner decided not to go public.
While there is no picture of him or her with the big publicity cheque, the Executive Director of the South Carolina Lottery Commission did say that this fantastic win was the result of an act of kindness. The winner purchased a Quick Pick ticket and “even allowed a fellow customer to make a Mega Millions lottery ticket purchase in front of the winner while in line at the store”.
2. 3 Winners – US$656 Million – March 30th, 2018
Mega Millions was the first lottery in history to have awarded a jackpot of over half a million dollars, even before the Powerball! In fact, this lottery held the record for the largest jackpot ever won for 4 years. When did this happen? It was the draw of March 30th, 2012 that made Mega Millions change the entire world’s perspective on lottery jackpots. The $656 million jackpot was won on 3 tickets. One of the three tickets was purchased in Maryland and belonged to a Mega Millions syndicate who dubbed themselves “The Three Amigos”. Another ticket was owned by an Illinois couple. Finally, the third part of the prize went to Kansas and was claimed by an anonymous player.
The Three Amigos – Maryland
This trio of winners became famous for the way they disguised themselves, covering their faces in front of the cameras when they claimed their prize. The 3 friends decided to get their $218 million as a lump sum. Despite their efforts to conceal their identity, the media found out some details about them: a woman and two men aged between 20 and 50, the winners worked at the time of the win in the education sector. The Maryland Lottery officials were happy to hand over the prize to “people who have contributed so much to the community.” In addition, they said that “this could not have happened to friendlier people”.
How did they find out that they won? First of all, they had bought a total of 60 tickets for the draw. Right after the numbers were drawn, one of them scattered all the tickets on the floor, checking the results. When he discovered that one of the lines matched the winning numbers, he immediately called his friends. They made copies of the ticket and signed it. Then, they put the ticket in a safe place until they approached the Maryland Lottery to claim their prize. As for their plans with the money, each had their own preferences. They talked about paying college for their children, covering debts, or traveling.
Merle and Patricia Butler – Illinois
A third of Mega Millions’ huge jackpot record went to a small town, Red Bud in Illinois, where one lucky couple scored a $111 million win, after taxes. Merle and Patricia Butler waited 2 weeks, and only came forward on April 18th. They cashed their win as a lump sum and disappeared from the public eye. While Mrs. Butler giggled for hours when she found out they became millionaires, Mr. Butler, a retired computer analyst and Vietnam veteran, immediately made contact with financial planners and legal counselors and began preparations for claiming the win. He said that making the necessary arrangements for the claim was like “another full-time job.”
The lucky winners described themselves as ordinary people who worked hard all their lives, loved their family and payed their taxes. “It just happened that we won the lottery”, said Merle, while Patricia talked about taking things step by step. As for their plans of what to do with the money, they mentioned things like helping their family, investing, saving, and buying a car. Married for over 40 years, the couple is now enjoying a wealthy retirement.
Anonymous – Kansas
The owner of the 3rd winning ticket of the historic Mega Millions jackpot comes from Kansas, whose laws allowed the lucky winner to remain anonymous. He chose not to reveal his identity or give any statements to the press, leaving lottery officials to celebrate the auspicious occasion with horns, confetti, balloons, cake, and punch in the company of a cardboard cut-out. The only details revealed about the winner is that he is a 6-foot tall shadowy figure made of poster board and sporting a smiley face.
Speaking about winners, Dennis Wilson, Executive Director of the Kansas Lottery said: “They were still in awe they had won it. They’re like all of us. They think about the possibility of winning, but they never think that’s it’s going to happen to them.”
In the same statement, lottery officials let slip a few details on how the winner received the news: he made sure 10 times that the numbers he was seeing were real, then he called the official Topeka lottery office at 8:30 in the morning. Just 2 hours later, the anonymous winner appeared with a lawyer and two advisers to fill in the necessary documentation. Finally, he received his money by bank transfer.
3. Steve Tran and Ira Curry – $648 Million – December 17th, 2013
One year after it distributed the record jackpot of US $656 million, Mega Millions marked another benchmark, delivering the second largest amount in the history of this lottery. A $648 million jackpot was split between 2 winning tickets owners, each of them winning a staggering $324 million. This happened in the draw of December 17th, 2013, and the lucky numbers were 8, 14, 17, 20, and 39, with a Mega Ball 7.
One of the lucky winners was Steve Tran from California. Although excited and rather nervous before picking up his prize, he told his story to the media. He bought his Mega Millions ticket during a family trip to San José, so he did not pay much attention to the draw and put the ticket aside. Then he saw on the news that one of the jackpot winners was from his city. After checking the results on his ticket, he smiled, hugged his wife and sent the following message to his boss: “I’m really sorry, boss. I hit the jackpot. I don’t think I’m going to come in today, tomorrow — or ever.”
The other winning ticket belonged to a 56-year-old woman from Stone Mountain, Georgia. Ira Curry was driving home from work when she heard on the radio that the winning Mega Ball was 7. She had played with 7 as it was the lucky number for her whole family. So, she called her daughter to check the ticket. Curry, her husband, and other family members came to lottery headquarters to claim the prize, surprising lottery officials who thought the winner was going to take some time to get their affairs in order before coming forward.
4. Unnamed California Syndicate – $543 Million – July 24th, 2018
Eleven co-workers from Santa Clara, California won a huge $543 million jackpot in the Mega Millions on July 24th, 2018. They were the sole winners of the enormous pot, which made them California’s largest lottery winners to date.
The group decided to stay anonymous after their win and sent a syndicate representative to collect the prize. Ronald Reyes told the press that they decided to play the Mega Millions on a whim. “Hey, did you hear about the jackpot? We should play.”
Thankfully, they did play, and the rest is lottery history. Mr. Reyes said that now that they won the Mega Millions, they have no intention whatsoever to leave their jobs. The 11 syndicate members work together at a finance company, but they did not want to disclose the name out of fear of losing their jobs.
“We want to keep our jobs,” said Mr. Reyes. “We love that company. We love what we’ve built there. We have a good time and want to stay together.”
The California syndicate opted for the lump sum payout for their jackpot, which netted $320 million before taxes. Each member of the syndicate took home approximately $29 million, which is a fortune in itself.
5. Indiana Family – $536 Million -July 8th, 2016
The draw of July 8th, 2016 made a single jackpot winner. For weeks, everybody remained curious to find out who the big winner of the $536 million prize was, but nobody came up to the claim the pot. After almost a month, news came out that it was cashed in by a family from Indiana. It seems that they had actually forgotten they bought lottery tickets.
They stumbled upon them by accident and couldn’t believe their eyes when they found out that they had won the first prize. The Indiana family wished to remain anonymous to “maintain a sense of normalcy” for their two children. They managed to do so by having their prize collected by a legal trust. They chose the lump sum payout for their jackpot worth $378 million, which finally came down to $271 million after taxes.
6. Richard Wahl – $533 Million – March 30th, 2018
The second Mega Millions jackpot of 2018 was worth a whopping $533 million and it was scooped entirely by Richard Wahl from New Jersey. It was the second time that Mr. Wahl ever played the lottery, but it brought him the fortune of a lifetime.
It all started like many lottery stories do, with Mr. Wahl going into a gas station to pay up. He bought a Diet Coke and decided to throw in a lottery ticket as well with the $22 he had in his pocket. He didn’t have high expectations for it, but when he checked his ticket, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
He noticed that all the winning main numbers matched the ones on his ticket, and then he remembered that there’s also an extra number. Much to his surprise, this one was a match as well. “I went over and looked at that one,” said Mr. Wahl. “I can tell you, it didn’t sink in. It was truly amazing.”
He also said that he and his wife must have checked the numbers a dozen times before the good news finally sunk in. “We cried a lot together as a family, hugged a lot,” Wahl said. “It’s not only life-changing money for me, but I want it to be life-changing money for others.”
Mr. Walh said that some of the money would go to his mother, who lives in Mexico on reduced income, and to his wife’s family, who also live in Mexico. Richard Wahl chose to take home the lump sum payout on his jackpot worth $324.6 million. He said that he will work closely with financial advisors to set up a long-term plan for his Mega Millions money.
7. Shane Missler – $451 Million – January 5th, 2018
Before Richard Wahl won the jackpot in March 2018, the Mega Millions gave out another larger than life pot worth $451 million. On January 5th, 18-year-old Shane Missler from Florida won the Mega Millions lottery all by himself. He was so excited to find out he had won the jackpot, that his first reaction was to post about it on Facebook. His status was “Oh.My.God” and with an amount this high, we can certainly understand why.
The young winner collected the lump sum payout worth $282 million and he is now living the lottery life. According to the Instagram profile that he updates regularly, he is very invested in the sports scene. He’s also traveling a lot with his girlfriend, so, overall, he seems to be enjoying his fortune quite a bit.
8. New Life Syndicate – $437 Million – January 1st, 2019
The Mega Millions started out 2019 by giving out a huge jackpot worth $437 million. On January 1st, 2019, 23 co-workers from Long Island became Mega Millionaires overnight. They have a longstanding tradition of playing the lottery together and, as you can see, it served them extremely well.
When they came in to work after the New Year’s holiday, word of the huge win spread out. They said that there was a lot of crying and a lot of hugging involved. The New Life syndicate chose to stay anonymous and they took the lump sum payout for their Mega Millions jackpot, which was worth $262.2 million. After taxes, they were left with $176.1 million, which they split among themselves.
While you might think that they would quit their jobs on the spot, all the members of the New Life syndicate said that they want to continue working together. They said that they are much more than co-workers, they are a family and they want to stick together.
The 23 syndicate members said that they intend to move into new houses and certainly set up college funds for their children. Amongst other plans, they want to use their jackpot money to travel the world. We hope they are going to go on their adventures together.
9. Raymond Moyer & Robyn Collier + Maryland Winner – $414 Million – March 18th, 2014
Back in March 2014, excitement started building up around the Mega Millions jackpot that reached that mouth-watering amount of $414 million. On March 18th, the first prize was claimed by two winning tickets, one sold in Florida and one in Maryland.
The first winners to come forward were the Florida ticket-holders, couple Raymond Moyer & Robyn Collier. They claimed the $207 million half of their jackpot and chose the lump sum payout worth $115.5 million.
Ms. Collier told the press that she paused the TV and rang to get her Mega Millions ticket to double check the number. “And when I realized they all matched, I jumped off the couch in excitement and told Raymond we had won.”
They couldn’t believe that they actually were the jackpot winners until they saw the store where they purchased the ticket on the news. “It was definitely a shock, but it is an incredible blessing that will allow us to do many things we would not have had the opportunity to do before,” said Mr. Moyer.
The second half of the prize was claimed anonymously in Maryland, who also chose the cash payout for the jackpot. “You have to play to win,” said the lucky winner. “You have to play your lucky numbers.” That is sound advice coming from somebody who became a millionaire overnight.
10. Patricia Busking – $393 Million – August 11th, 2017
Patricia Busking of Palos Heights, Illinois won a huge Mega Millions jackpot worth $393 million on August 11th, 2017. She came to collect her prize with her husband, Joe, and she told the press that she is not a frequent lottery player. She said that she picks up a lottery ticket now and then when the jackpot gets high.
Luckily for her, the Mega Millions jackpot got just high enough to get her attention and she played. “It’s amazing to think how lucky we were to be at the right place at the right time,” said Mrs. Busking. She purchased her lucky ticket at Nicky’s BBQ in Palos Heights.
Mrs. Busking chose the lump sum payout worth $247.3 million and she said she wants to share this amazing prize with friends and family. The couple also want to donate part of their jackpot to charitable organizations.
“We’re very excited to be able to donate to charities that are near and dear to our hearts,” said Patricia Busking. “A few particular organizations have touched our lives, and it will be a pleasure to be able to give back so that they continue to touch the lives of others.”
These are the biggest Mega Millions jackpot winners of all times. Their amazing stories have made lottery history and have inspired many others to play the lottery for themselves. If you want to join their ranks one day, all you have to do is play. So put in a Mega Millions ticket today! Who knows how far it can take you?