Lucky Lahti

Rathdrum woman claims $190 million lottery prize

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Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson announces that North Idaho resident Holy Lahti won $190 million in the latest Mega Millions payout on a ticket bought in Post Falls on Wednesday in Boise.

Holly Lahti came forward to solve the Mega Millions mystery.

The Rathdrum woman, described by acquaintances as 29 with two young kids and a boyfriend, answered the nation's $190 million question by claiming her prize late Tuesday at the Idaho Lottery in Boise.

"She just about died (when she learned she had won)," said Brad Wilde, manager of Ady's Convenience and Car Wash on Seltice Way in Post Falls. "One hundred-ninety million dollars is very hard to wrap your head around."

Lahti purchased the ticket at Ady's, a block from Inland Northwest Bank, her now former employer of more than three years. Wilde said Lahti bought the ticket during her lunch hour on Tuesday last week, then returned to the store on Wednesday to see if she was a winner.

Lahti is the second winner of last week's Mega Millions jackpot of $380 million, the second-largest jackpot in United States history.

Lahti was not at a press conference in Boise on Wednesday during the announcement. She also was not available for public comment, said Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson.

"At the time of the media event, Ms. Lahti was traveling to an undisclosed destination," an Idaho Lottery press release states.

Lahti was a customer service representative at INB from August 2007 until Monday when she gave her notice at the Post Falls branch effective immediately. She also previously worked at INB's Coeur d'Alene branch.

"She is a great woman and she'll do great things," said Suzanna Spencer, INB's Post Falls branch manager. "She's an amazing person and we're really excited for her. She's a young, energetic woman who will go places.

"We've been holding it a secret for a week, and that was the hard part."

Jim McCullar, 68, a retired Boeing worker from Ephrata, Wash., was the first winner to come forward. The two split the $380 million prize. The odds of winning were 1 in 176 million.

While the winning local ticket has been claimed, it has not been cashed as Lahti's election of the annuity or cash option is pending. If she elects the one-time cash option, Lahti would receive a check for more than $80 million after taxes. If she chooses the annuity, twenty-six payments over 25 years, her annual payment would be $4.9 million after taxes. She has 60 days from Tuesday to make the decision.

Wilde said Lahti is a regular customer at the Ady's store, but she's not a regular lottery player.

"She very seldom plays the lottery," he said. "In fact, (a clerk) had to explain to her that she could pick her numbers or they can randomly be picked for her."

Wilde described Lahti as a "very down-to-earth and thoughtful young lady."

"She took time to get help and direction," he said. "She's very deserving, and she should be able to help a lot of people. I was extremely happy for her."

Anderson called Lahti, an Idaho native, a "delightful individual."

Wilde said Lahti came into the store last Wednesday with two tickets to check. Her boyfriend had purchased a ticket in Rathdrum and it, the first to be checked, was a $10 winner.

Then Lahti's prompted a message that stated there's a winner with instructions to contact the Idaho Lottery.

"The fourth random pick (on the $5 ticket) had the winning numbers," Wilde said. "We knew she was the big winner, but due to protocol with the lottery and her benefit, we had to keep it hush-hush until she claimed the prize."

Wilde said the winning ticket is not only good for Lahti, her kids and the store, but for Post Falls and Idaho. While the East Coast has seemed to dominate large jackpot winnings, luck shined on the Northwest this time. Ephrata is just 150 miles away from Post Falls.

"It's nice to have it happen in Post Falls," Wilde said.

The largest jackpot ever was $390 million in March 2007. Two winners - in Georgia and New Jersey - split that Mega Millions prize. Mega Millions is sold in 41 states and Washington, D.C.

For selling the winning ticket, Ady's owner Dave Ady will receive $50,000 from the Idaho Lottery, the highest amount the state offers a retailer for a jackpot winning. The Ephrata Safeway received $1.9 million - 1 percent of the winnings - plus a $50,000 bonus.

"Mr. Ady would love to be a millionaire, but that's not the case," Wilde said. "The law varies in every state."

Ady could not be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

The Idaho Lottery did not release any information on Lahti or any photos like it normally does with press releases on big winners.

"We want to be respectful of our winner and to the extent possible, afford a certain amount of privacy as she begins to put her new life affairs in order," Anderson said. "She has requested the media respect her privacy and not contact her until she's prepared to speak."

The winning tickets matched all five numbers (4, 8, 15, 25, 47) and the Mega Ball (42).

A $1 million winner who purchased a ticket in Post Falls for a Mega Millions draw in October still has not claimed the prize.

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