The chances of winning the lottery are slim to none, but the chances of a complete stranger returning a lost winning ticket to their original owner are even slimmer.
In March of 2019, a New Jersey man struggling to find a job bought a winning lottery ticket and then proceeded to lose it almost immediately. Thankfully, however, an incredibly kind stranger did the right thing even when no one was looking…
Out Of Work
In early March of 2019, Michael J. Weirsky from Phillipsburg, New Jersey, stopped at a QuickChek gas station to purchase a lottery ticket. According to Weirsky, he had been out of work and had been applying to jobs for over a year at the time.
A Stay-At-Home Husband
For the past 15 years, Weirsky has been unemployed and living as a stay-at-home husband as his then-wife had to move around a lot for her job. When the couple’s marriage ended in October of 2018, Weirsky had to restart his life and was having trouble without a job.
A Weekly Ritual
Despite that fact that he had been unemployed and had failed to even get an interview, Weirsky continued his weekly ritual of buying two lottery tickets for $20. So on the day before the lottery drawing, Weirsky walked into a local QuickChek and purchased his tickets.
Yet immediately after Weirsky bought the tickets, he ended up losing them when he accidentally left the tickets on the counter. According to the 54-year-old, he had no idea he had just left his lottery tickets behind and told reporters it was because of “the typical cell phone deal.”
“I was paying more attention to my cell phone,” Weirsky told reporters at a news conference a few days after purchasing his tickets. “I put the tickets down to put my money away, then I did something with my phone and just walked away,” the New Jersey man explained.
Weirsky proceeded to leave the gas station and drove home without even realizing he didn’t have his tickets. When he finally got home to his house in Alpha, New Jersey, and realized the lottery tickets were missing, he looked everywhere for them for hours.
When he failed to find anything, Weirsky decided to try going back to the QuickChek to speak to the clerk and ask if anyone had found his missing lottery tickets. Incredibly, the store clerk told Weirsky that someone had actually found and returned two tickets.
Returning The Tickets
Before handing them back to Weirsky, however, the clerk asked him questions about what tickets he had purchased to make sure he really was the person who lost their quick-pick tickets. When everything matched up, she handed the two tickets back to the 54-year-old.
An Honest Person
“I was very thankful there was an honest person out there because I thought it was gone,” Weirsky said. Yet the lottery drawing wasn’t until later that night and Weirsky forgot to check the winning numbers that night as a snowstorm distracted him.
The Phone Call
It wasn’t until two days later that Weirsky remembered to check the numbers when his mother’s friend called. During their conversation, the woman told Weirsky that she believed a mutual friend of theirs had actually bought a winning lottery ticket.
A False Alarm
According to Weirsky, the friend had bought his tickets at the same store and had actually been standing right in front of Weirsky in line at the gas station that day. Yet when Weirsky called his friend, he found out that man hadn’t actually won. So Weirsky decided to check his own tickets.
The Winning Ticket
Weirsky checked the lottery app on his phone and was stunned to see that he actually had the winning lottery ticket. “I put the phone down, I put the ticket down, I sat there for a second — I said to my mother, ‘Hey, that just said I was the jackpot winner,’” Weirsky explained.
“And she’s like, ‘What’s that mean?’,” the 54-year-old added. “I said, ‘I won $273 million,’” Weirsky told his mother. “And she was like, ‘Get the hell out of here.’” At that point, Weirsky was still completely in shock so he sat watching the TV until the news sank in a little bit.
Checking The Tickets
“I just put the ticket back down, watched TV for about another half-hour. And I just got up and ran upstairs, got dressed and I said, ‘I’ve got to go find out if it’s real,’” said Weirsky, who then left his home in the middle of a snowstorm to scan the tickets at a store nearby.
A Confirmed Winner
Sure enough, the scan confirmed that Weirsky had the winning ticket to the $273 million lottery. According to Weirsky, that kind of money would change everything for him. Now, he plans to take his time looking for work. If he doesn’t start his own business, he may work part-time as a handyman helping a friend out.
The First Purchase
“I am just going to sit back and enjoy it,” said Weirsky, who has decided to take the winnings of $162.5 million all at once instead of in several installments. According to the 54-year-old, the first thing he plans to do with his money is buy a new pickup truck for himself.
After that, he plans on listening to his lawyer about what to do with the rest of his money. “After that, I am basically locked into what my lawyer and other people that I got working for me tell me I can do,” said Weirsky, who doesn’t plan on blowing all of the money.
“But after they tell me I can go crazy, I am going to take a family vacation and take everybody with us,” Weirsky said. “I always wanted to know what it would be like to be able to just wake up and be able to go somewhere, buy something. And when I get the money I’m going to do that,” Weirsky said in a statement reported by the Daily Mail.
Returning The Favor
Now, the New Jersey man is also determined to find the good samaritan that helped return his lost lottery tickets to him instead of taking them. “I’ve got to find him and thank him,” Mr. Weirsky said, adding, “I am going to give him something, but I am going to keep that private.”
A Lucky Break
In the wake of the incredible story, James Carey, the acting executive director of the New Jersey Lottery said Weirsky was lucky the person returned his tickets as that person would have been declared the winner if they claimed ownership. “If you have a winning ticket, we always urge our players: Sign that ticket right away,” Carey told reporters at the news conference. “If you think about it, it is very difficult to say who owns a lottery ticket short of someone coming in here and saying, ‘I purchased this ticket. It’s mine.’”