LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – The Dominican immigrant who won one of the largest lottery jackpots in U.S. history said Tuesday he felt “pure joy” at winning, and he plans to buy a car so he doesn’t have to walk everywhere.
Pedro Quezada, a former shop owner who lives in a working-class suburb of New York City, appeared at New Jersey lottery headquarters to officially claim the $338 million Powerball prize.
Lottery officials said Quezada had decided to accept the winnings in the form of a lump-sum payment worth $221 million, or about $152 million after taxes. It’s the fourth-largest jackpot in Powerball history.
Quezada said his mind is not yet clear enough to know how he will use the money, but he said he could use a good car. Asked what kind of car he has now, he said, “My feet.”
Until last year, he worked 15 hours a day at the store his son now runs.
“Imagine … so much money,” Quezada said. “But it will not change my heart.”
He said he would share his winnings with family members and would use some to help his community. He said his Mexican-born wife of nine years, Ines Sanchez, could have “whatever she wants.”
Neighbours told The Record newspaper that the Quezada family has suffered bad luck in recent years. Two years ago, thieves broke into their apartment and stole everything from clothing to jewelry. The year before, a fire destroyed much of their store, they said.
Quezada would not talk about any of the hard times.
“I know he’s going to do something good with the money,” Quezada’s son, Casiano, said from behind the counter of the family store, the Apple Deli Grocery. He said he is proud of his father and still in disbelief that he won.
The family moved to the U.S. in the 1980s from the Dominican city of Jarabacoa, Casiano Quezada said.
Pedro Quezada’s neighbours saw a lot of themselves in the winner: hardworking, a family man, an immigrant, and someone who has known hard times.
The neighbours were thrilled that one of their own finally struck it rich.
“This is super for all of us on this block,” said Eladia Vazquez, who has lived across the street from Quezada’s building for the past 25 years. Quezada and his family “deserve it because they are hardworking people.”
Fellow Dominican immigrant Jose Gonzalez said he barbecues and plays dominoes with Quezada in the summers in a backyard on their street.
“He sometimes would work from six in the morning to 11 at night, so I did not see him much,” Gonzalez said Monday night. “I am happy for him. … I don’t know where he is now, but I imagine he will drop by to say hi to his friends.”
Powerball is played in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The chance of matching all five numbers and the Powerball number is about 1 in 175 million.
Associated Press writers David Porter and Angela Delli Santi contributed.