Top 10 Michigan Lottery Jackpot Wins

The $70 million Powerball jackpot won in Michigan on February 12, 2020 is an enormous amount of money - but where does it rank on the list of the state's biggest-ever lottery prizes?

Well, Michigan's latest jackpot win didn't quite make it onto the top 10 list ... not that the winner will be complaining! The $70 million win is the 11th-largest jackpot won in the state. 

The prize was won by a single ticket purchased at the Huron Plaza Party Store in Pontiac. It matched all six Powerball numbers in the February 12 draw: 14, 47, 54, 55, 68 and Powerball 25.

The winner will have 60 days from the day they claim to choose how to have their prize paid. They can opt to be paid the full $70 million as a yearly annuity payment (reflecting the prize's value over time if it is invested) or take a single lump sum payment of $49.78 million, which is the amount raised from ticket sales.

Michigan definitely loves to play the lottery - it ranks number 11 in states that spend the most on tickets. The average yearly spend per adult is $388.97, compared to $288.06 nationwide.

The winner has one year from the draw date to claim their prize, and before they do, they should take these 10 steps to make the most of their new financial freedom.

Can the winner stay anonymous? State lottery laws offer players who win $10,000 or more on a Michigan game the option to remain anonymous. However, winners of Powerball, Mega Millions and other games played in multiple states don't have that choice, so the Michigan Lottery will publish the winner's name and city when they claim.

A bill that would give winners of multi-state games the option to keep their identity private is currently being considered by the Michigan Legislature, although similar bills didn't pass in 2015 and 2018.

While we wait for the winner to step into the spotlight, let's check out the top 10 jackpots won in Michigan, from smallest to largest. 

10. $75 million Mega Millions jackpot won on November 14, 2006

48-year-old Detroit resident Loretta Brown wasted no time in claiming her prize, coming forward just two days after winning. She chose the lump sum of $44.6 million pre-tax.

"This is unbelievable. I'm still in shock. It's just unbelievable," Brown exclaimed as she claimed the prize with her family. "We're going to live comfortably, stress-free, for once in our lives. Unbelievable!"

At the time, Brown wasn't sure what she would do with the money, other than that she will share it with her family and pay bills.

Brown said she doesn't regularly play the lottery, but made a spur-of-the-moment purchase while shopping in Canton. When she saw the winning numbers reported on TV the next day, "I sensed it? I had the winning ticket. I looked at the TV, I took out my ticket and I checked it. And I continued to look at it!"

Brown called her husband to tell him the incredible news, but he didn't answer his phone, so she called her mother and sister. Then she left for her job as a loan officer, although she admitted that "it was hard to get anything done!" She said she will keep her job.

9. $80 million Mega Millions jackpot won on July 5, 2013

Troy man Dick Zelasko claimed his prize two months after winning. He'd kept the winning Easy Pick ticket in his wallet for weeks without realizing its value.

He later checked the ticket at a lottery self-scanner and got a message telling him to contact the lottery. He didn't think much of it and "stuffed it back in my wallet," he said.

Over the next few weeks, the ticket stayed in his wallet as he went on vacation and several golfing trips. "That would have been a terrible time to lose your wallet," he joked.

The local paper carried a story about a player who claimed to be the winner, and Zelasko mentioned to friends that he buys his tickets at the same place, John's Market in Troy.

Zelasko eventually scanned the ticket a few more times and got the same message to contact the lottery. Finally, he went online to check the numbers, but "I thought someone was playing a joke on me," he recalled. "We paced and paced all night."

Zelasko said he'd bought lottery tickets for years and his favorites were Mega Millions and Powerball. He said he would "absolutely" keep playing. "You go with the streak, not against it," he reasoned.

"For the most part, it is entertainment. But sometimes you just get that gut feeling. I'd see the billboard and put myself in the mindset of 'what would you do?'"

His plans for the big win included buying a new house and car, and he will be able "to just take care of family and enjoy the peace of mind" of financial security. "That really is the biggest reward."

8. $80 million Powerball jackpot won on September 21, 2019

54-year-old Phillip Chippewa of Suttons Bay won the $80 Powerball jackpot in the September 21, 2019 drawing. The dad of seven and grandfather of 21 opted for the cash option of $55.3 million, which was approximately $42 million after taxes.

He revealed that his big win almost didn't happen because he "almost walked out without buying the tickets, but at the last minute, I decided to get four plays."

Best impulse buy ever!

Chippewa put the tickets in his truck, and ran out to look at them after the draw and realized he'd won. However, his wife Dawn and their son thought he was playing a trick on them, "so my son pulled the numbers up on his phone and read them out loud while Dawn and I looked at the ticket together," Chippewa recalled. "By the time he was done, we both had tears in our eyes."

A family meeting followed where the couple told their children the amazing news. "There were a lot of emotions in that room because we've always put our family first and it hasn't always been easy, but all of them were so happy for us," Chippewa recalled.

“With seven children and 21 grandchildren, I’ve always said that I might not have the most money, but I am rich with family. Now, I have all the money I’ll ever need and can help my family for generations. That means everything to me.”

“Winning is life-changing, but it’s not going to change who we are,” Chippewa said. “My wife and I have been together for 25 years, we’ve always helped others and we’re both still working.

“Every day when I come to work my boss asks me: ‘Why are you here?’ I just tell him that I was hired to do a job and I’m not going to abandon anyone just because I won. We’ll both retire in time, but we believe in being good to the community that has been so good to us.”

7. $128.6 million Powerball jackpot won on November 6, 2010

The Team Victory lottery pool split this incredible jackpot. Mike Greer of Farmington Hills claimed the prize in Lansing on behalf of the group on November 13. Team Victory chose the cash option of $69,606,574, less taxes.

Greer said he and the other members "are still in a state of shock. The prize is a blessing. We love southeast Michigan and plan to stay here. We will give some to the church and maybe fix some things around the house."

Remarkably, Greer claimed on the same day as another big Michigan winner, Steve Mays of Gladstone in the Upper Peninsula, who came to Lansing to claim the $141 million Mega Millions jackpot he won on October 29.

6. $136 million Mega Millions jackpot won on April 1, 2008

David Sneath, of Livonia in suburban Detroit, claimed his prize just two days after the drawing and chose the lump sum of $84.3 million ($59.6 million after taxes).

On the day Sneath won the lottery, he also had another reason to celebrate - it was his 60th birthday.

But winning the jackpot on April Fool's Day meant none of his family believed him when he called with the big news. "I called my sister; she didn't believe me. I called my daughter; she thought I was nuts," Sneath said.

Sneath, who described himself as a "character," worked in a Ford Motor Co. parts warehouse for 34 years, but immediately left after his win. "I yelled to the boss, 'I'm out of here,'" he revealed.

Although Sneath usually played the lottery with four co-workers, the winning ticket was bought for him by his son, using numbers Sneath always plays after receiving them as a random pick in the past. But he hadn't forgotten his colleagues, and said he would give them $1 million each - "the least I could do."

His plans for his new life included buying a cottage on Mullett Lake in the north of the state and maybe a boat or two for walleye fishing. Sneath said he was also considering completing his bachelor's degree in warehousing from Eastern Michigan University, which he had just eight credits left on. He also wanted to get laser eye surgery so he could stop misplacing his glasses.

On a more personal note, he expressed an desire to rekindle his relationship with his "significant" ex-wife Deborah, who also attended the news conference.

5. $141 million Mega Millions jackpot won on October 29, 2010

Claiming on the same day as the No. 7 winners on this list, Team Victory, Steve Mays of Gladstone in the Upper Peninsula chose the annuity option, which is an annual payment of about $5.4 million.

“I’ve been retired for 10 years,” Mays said. “The last couple have been tough and this prize is going to make things a whole lot easier.” 

What were his plans for his big win? “To be determined,” Mays said. 

The prize was Michigan's second-largest multi-state lottery jackpot winner and its 11th Mega Millions top prize.

4. $181 million The Big Game jackpot won on May 9, 2000

A lunch break led to a life-changing lottery win for Shelby Township resident Larry Ross.

On the day of the drawing, Ross picked up a hot dog for lunch along with 98 lottery tickets. A few hours later, he'd won half of what was at the time the biggest U.S. jackpot ever. The other winning ticket was sold in Illinois.

47-year-old Ross owned a swimming pool company, but never expected to be swimming in money. "We're still in stunned mode," he said at a news conference. "We're humbled. It's phenomenal." He opted for the lump sum and received around $61 million after withholdings.

Proving that you should always listen to your significant other, "My wife told me to buy some tickets," he said, as 46-year-old Nancy and their three children stood next to him at the news conference.

It was also Nancy who pointed out that the ticket not only matched the main winning numbers, but also the bonus "money ball" - leading Ross to say, "I invented a new dance. I started doing the lottery dance."

"Nobody ever expects to win. You hope, you dream you could win," Ross reflected. Before coming forward to claim, "I haven't slept in three days. It's a great diet program, win the lotto and lose weight. I haven't eaten in three days."

"You have the ecstasy of winning," Ross explained. "Then you start realizing the agony of what might happen. You worry about your family and who's at risk. We live in a nice middle-class neighborhood, but we don't have security like rich people have."

Aside from moving his family out of their ranch house to a hotel, Ross had hired a team of lawyers, financial planners and real estate agents. "We are going to put the money to use for something good," he said. "We're going to wait 90 days before we buy anything."

One item is definitely on the shopping list: a purple Jaguar for Nancy, the only thing she's wanted since they got married. Nancy would also like to do charity work, and the family will take a vacation for the first time in 13 years.

Ross, who normally worked 80 to 100 hours a week in the warmer months servicing pools, wanted his customers to know he hadn't forgotten about them: "I'd like them all to know we will take care of them."

Ross said his sons would eventually take over the business, and "I'd like to start a new job playing golf."

The Big Game became Mega Millions in 2002.

3. $208 million Mega Millions jackpot won on April 22, 2005

Ralph and Mary Stebbins of Port Huron opted to take their prize as a lump sum payment of $124.7 million before taxes. The couple, who were married for 23 years and had three children, bought a farm, and Mr. Stebbins built a garage for his refurbished motorcycles and 1963 Corvette.

The couple were active lottery players and purchased five Easy Pick Mega Millions tickets weekly.

Before their big win, Mr. Stebbins worked for a well-digging company and Mrs. Stebbins was a sales clerk. Both retired after they hit the jackpot, and were going to help other family members stop working too.

In October 2006, Mr. Stebbins was charged with attempted murder when he allegedly stabbed his 19-year-old daughter's boyfriend with a pocketknife during a fight.

Mr. Stebbins died in December 2006 from a heart attack at the age of 43 while the case was pending.

2. $310 million Powerball jackpot won on September 30, 2015

Julie Leach, 50, of Three Rivers was the lucky winner of the top prize and chose to receive a one-time lump sum payment of $197.4 million. After taxes, she received about $140 million.

Leach said she was at a McDonald's drive-through when she found out she'd won. She was on a break from her shift as a supervisor at a fiberglass factory. "I was having a really bad night at work and I thought I better check my numbers," she said. She returned to work to ask her colleagues to confirm her win.

After that, "I quit automatically. I was done," she said, calling her job "dirty" and "nasty."

"I didn't go to sleep for over 30 hours when I found out," she disclosed.

Leach said her family had always dreamed about a big win. "We always talked around campfires ... saying if we ever won the lottery we wanted to buy a bunch of land and build all of our kids a home - basically have our own little community," she recalled.

"I'm gonna take care of my kids," Leach said. She has three children and 11 grandchildren. "I don't want them to have to work like I had to work and deal with the kind of things that I had to deal with over life. I just want to make it a good life for them."

Leach's partner had previously proposed to her several times, but she had turned him down. At the press conference she was asked whether she thought he would ask her again. "I said he would have to sign a pre-nup now," she laughed.

1. $337 million Powerball jackpot won on August 15, 2012

44-year-old Lapeer man Donald Lawson was the lucky winner of Michigan's biggest-ever jackpot and the third-largest in Powerball history. He opted for the cash lump sum of $224.6 million, or about $158.7 after taxes.

After his daughter told him the previous night's winning ticket was sold in Lapeer, Lawson checked his numbers and realized he'd won.

"I couldn't breath," he recalled of how he felt when he learned he'd won. "I had to look at the ticket twice."

"I called my sister and told her to quit her job and come home. She laughed and said, 'Did you win the lottery?' and I said yes!"

Next, "I called my mom and told her I won $200,000 on the lottery and she didn't believe me. Finally I said, 'Okay. I'll tell you the truth. I won $337 million!"

Lawson put the winning ticket in a Bible initally, and later placed it in a safety deposit box.

He said he was still figuring out what to do with his overnight wealth, "But I will help my family, take care of my children and take care of myself." The first thing he was going to check off his wish-list was a vacation "to wherever I want to go!"

More big lottery wins

Michigan has had a lot more big jackpot wins than just the top 10. Here are a few more incredible prizes won in the state over the years:

  • $40.8 million Mega Millions jackpot won on June 16, 2001
  • $42 million Mega Millions jackpot won on October 3, 2008
  • $45.5 million Mega Millions jackpot won on February 1, 2011
  • $45.6 million The Big Game jackpot won on January 24, 1997
  • $47 million Mega Millions jackpot won on July 23, 2004
  • $57 million Mega Millions jackpot won on June 13, 2008
  • $66 million Mega Millions jackpot won on June 13, 2014.

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