Eight co-workers claim $276M Powerball jackpot

March 18, 2008 4:21:28 PM PDT
After claiming a Powerball ticket worth $276.3 million, eight employees of a sheriff's department tax office talked Tuesday about their relationships, helping family first -- and getting back to work. The women showed up at West Virginia Lottery headquarters in Charleston to accept a check for $1 million. The rest of the prize money will be paid in two weeks.

Even so, they'll keep working.

"At this point, everybody is," said Linda Fominko, one of the employees at the Monongalia County Sheriff's Office and the buyer of the winning ticket at a video poker bar in Westover. "But who knows down the line in a few months or a year?"

The women opted to take the $139 million cash payout option and individually will receive $11.9 million after taxes.

"Their friendship and camaraderie paid off big time," Musgrave said. "I call them the Lucky Eight."

The women, who say they play Powerball occasionally, range in service at the tax office from a year to Fominko's 35 years.

The office has 11 employees, but only eight contributed money for tickets in Saturday's drawing. Each contributed $5, and it was the first time the group bought tickets at the bar.

Fominko, the sheriff's department's chief tax deputy, let a computer pick the winning numbers.

As she has done with previous lottery purchases, she locked the ticket in a safe at work and made copies to distribute to each group member.

This time, she sensed something was different.

"I told them Thursday, 'I have the feeling we're going to hit Powerball, and we have to play numbers tonight. It has to be tonight,"' Fominko said.

She watched the televised drawing Saturday night. After hearing the numbers, she stared at a copy of the ticket, and her jaw dropped.

"You're like whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute. Let me look at this again," she said. "I must have looked at it 10 times before I jumped up, ran back and told my sister, 'The tax office won the Powerball!"'

Fominko started calling her co-workers, but not everyone found out right away. Paula Pride was on a church retreat trip in Kentucky and didn't learn until midday Sunday.

Pride, who works at the office part-time, said she doesn't plan to quit.

"We're coming into tax time, and they can't replace eight people. It's a lot of work," she said.

Amanda Pugh has no plans for the money right away because "I'm not a buyer," she said. "I'm a doer. I like to experience."

That means traveling, but a trip will have to wait until her vacation time.

"I'm happy. I like my life," she said. "I don't want to change anything too much right now."

Of course, there will be an avalanche of unsolicited phone calls and advice about how to spend -- and not to spend -- the money.

"So far it's been family and friends. You know it's going to change," Pride said.

Each group member has heard the stories about Jack Whittaker, the West Virginian who won a $314.9 million Powerball jackpot in December 2002 but said his life became a nightmare with scandals, lawsuits and personal setbacks.

"Everybody is definitely worried about this," Fominko said. "Too many things can happen. We're trying our best to stay calm and keep our patience and get help from everybody that can help us."

The ticket was the seventh sold in West Virginia to win a Powerball jackpot and was the seventh-largest win in Powerball history.

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