Ricardo Cerezo, of Geneva, Ill., got an extremely sweet surprise after looking in his cookie jar recently.
"I can't believe I had $4.85 million in a cookie jar for over three months," Cerezo told the Geneva Patch, after rediscovering several old Lottery tickets he had kept in the jar for safe keeping.
Over time, Cerezo had accumulated 11 Lotto tickets that he saved in the cookie jar for a rainy day. But at his wife's suggestion, he eventually took them to be checked for possible winnings, which proved to be excellent advice.
Cerezo, 44, owned the winning ticket from the Feb. 2 Lotto drawing, which he hadn't bothered to check until May. And on May 15, at the Aurora, Ill., 7-Eleven where he originally purchased the winning ticket, Cerezo received a check from the Illinois Lottery officials for $4.85 million.
"I'm awestruck, this is unbelievable," he said.
When Cerezo had taken the tickets to be checked, the first seven weren't winners. However, the eighth proved to be lucky, when the message "File a claim" appeared after placing it under the scanner.
"I thought I had probably won about $600," Cerezo told the local Patch.
But much to his surprise, the prize money turned out being much greater than he ever imagined.
"When I realized we had all six numbers, it was that shocking moment of 'Whoa, can this really be?' So I called my son over and asked him to double check this," Cerezo told Chicago's WGN-TV. "And he looked it through and goes, 'Yep, looks like a winner.'"
With their earnings, Cerezo and his wife plan to pay off their mortgage, take care of extra bills and share a portion of the winnings with their son and daughter. They also want to donate to their church and favorite charities.
"It is very important to us that we help others with this money," Cerezo said.