Long Island, Queens winners claim $16.3 million in lottery jackpots

NEW YORK -- Two postal workers from Long Island, New York who have been friends for decades are among the state's newest millionaires, joining two other winners from Queens in receiving giant checks Wednesday.

Elizabeth Kelly, 56, and 63-year-old Randi Bernstein are $8.3 million richer after the March 18 drawing.

Kelly, who is employed by the U.S. Postal Service, and Bernstein, the postmaster, only recently started playing the lottery together.

"It was kind of a fluky decision we made in the last couple of months," said Bernstein, a married mother of two. "I'm not really sure why we started playing."

And they have each assigned the other a specific task to keep their pool running smoothly.

"I buy the tickets, and she checks the numbers," Bernstein said. "It's that simple."

And so Bernstein spent $2 on four sets of Quick Picks for the March 18 drawing, and then Kelly checked the winning numbers in the Sunday paper the following morning.

"I was in total denial," Bernstein said. "I thought, 'how could this be?' And then there was a lot of crying."

Bernstein and Kelly opted for the lump sum payment, with each receiving $2,714,232 ($1,796,279 after taxes).

Bernstein plans to replace her old car and do some much-needed work on her home, while Kelly said she needs a little more time before making any decisions about her windfall.

The other winners were 74-year-old Anokye Kwaku, who retired from the NYC Department of Environmental Protection more than a decade ago and who won $5,000 a week for life on a scratch-off ticket; and college student Ronald Bechan, who claimed $3 million on a scratch-off.

Kwaku, a father of two, opted to receive the cash value of his $5 million guaranteed minimum payment and will receive a single payment of nearly $4 milllion ($2,482,877 after taxes).

"I plan to help my children and to do some traveling," he said. "My first trip will be to South Africa. I've been planning it for a while. But now, I can actually go."

Bechan is in his fifth year of working full time and going to college at night to earn his accounting degree. The mail center employee at Time Inc.'s offices in Manhattan was running errands near work when he stopped for a fruit punch and a lottery ticket.

"Luck was with me that day," he said. "I was speechless. I walked out, finished my errands and went home to tell mom."

Bechan also opted for the cash value and will receive a single payment of nearly $2.5 million ($1,545,139 after taxes). He said he is excited at the prospect of moving out of the South Richmond Hills apartment he shares with family and into a new home "with lots of rooms."

He also likes the idea of not stressing over money anymore.

"I've got a little more leg room now," he said. "I know the money will be there for what may come up."

Bechan plans to finish the three courses he's taking this semester and register for the one remaining class he needs to graduate from York College next fall.

"This isn't going to change my plans," he said. "I need my degree so I can do better and help my parents to do better, too. It will change my circumstances, but it won't change me."

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