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Forgotten Lotto ticket brings fortune to family on brink of foreclosure

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Updated: June 18, 2013 7:30AM

Ricardo Cerezo and his family have been going through a hard time in the last couple of years.

Last year, their 14-year-old daughter, Savannah, passed away from a sudden illness.

On Feb. 12, the couple, who have three children, stood before a judge in a foreclosure hearing for their home in the Mill Creek neighborhood of Geneva.

Foreclosure and eviction were imminent. The judge gave the couple a few more months to find a new home as the paperwork on their foreclosure finalized.

Three months later, Cerezo’s wife decided to clean the kitchen, including a shelf holding a clear glass cookie jar, stuffed with a couple dollars in cash and some old Lotto tickets.

“It was ‘take them in and get ‘em checked, or they’re going in the trash,’” Cerezo said.

Cerezo took the old tickets to the nearest gas station and scanned all 11. The first nine were losers. The 10th won him $3.

“I was pretty excited,” he said. “I thought, “‘Hey, this will pay for my Pepsi.’”

But the last ticket he scanned told Cerezo that he needed to check his claim. At the Illinois Lottery office in downtown Chicago, Cerezo learned he wouldn’t be losing his house after all.

He’d matched all six numbers in the Feb. 2 Lotto game, winning $4.85 million. After taxes, the prize will be $3,395,000.

On Wednesday, he accepted an oversized check in honor of the win in front of a cooler of sandwiches and bottled water at the 7-Eleven at the corner of Sullivan and Orchard roads on Aurora’s West Side, where he purchased the ticket in February.

Store owner Rashid Siddiqui also received a check for $48,500. He said he plans to go on vacation.

Cerezo said he still can’t get over the fact that he had already won the prize days before the foreclosure proceedings, but didn’t even know it.

“It couldn’t have happened at a better time. I just thought, ‘This is how God works,’” he said.

He and his wife plan on paying off their house in full, buying new vehicles to replace the 13-year-old cars he and his wife are driving, and then “donating a lot to our church and to organizations we feel strongly about.”

Cerezo, a management consultant, said he and his wife plan to continue working.

The odds of matching all six numbers in the Lotto game are one in 10,179,260. But, Cerezo said, his family’s win was a matter of faith.

“Faith tells us our best days are ahead of us,” he said.

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