Mega Millions Winner Joemel Panisa: Days from Missing Out on $1M
The American Mega Millions lottery is famous for its huge prizes—the largest being a mind-boggling $1.537 billion that was won in 2018. However, most people don’t know that millions of dollars in prize money go unclaimed every year.
In 2016, Mega Millions winner Joemel Panisa decided to buy a ticket to this lottery on a whim, and this is the story of how he almost missed out on collecting his prize.
How Did Joemel Panisa Win the Lottery?
Joemel Panisa was working as a banquet manager at a luxury resort in 2016 when he decided to buy a ticket to Oregon State Lottery’s Mega Millions draw. On January 15, 2016, he stopped at a mini market by the highway in the city of Newport, Oregon.
Panisa noticed that the Mega Millions jackpot was worth $22 million and bought a quick pick ticket to the draw on a whim. When he got home, he placed the ticket in an envelope in the office for safekeeping. He planned to check the numbers later—but completely forgot about the ticket.
How Joemel Panisa Almost Lost His Prize
After the draw, news stations reported that someone from Oregon had won the $1 million second place prize. Joemel Panisa, busy with work and his family life, didn’t see the news. In fact, he had completely forgotten about his lottery ticket and never even checked his numbers. Considering how many lottery prizes go unclaimed each year, he's certainly not the only one.
In December 2016, a local news station published a story about a $1 million prize that still had not been collected. The ticket was purchased in Newport, Oregon.
"Whether you live in Newport, or were visiting last January, check to make sure you aren't sitting on a $1 million ticket. If you have the winning ticket, sign the back immediately and call the Oregon Lottery ahead of time to schedule a time to come in to claim the prize," counselled the Oregon Lottery’s promotion manager.
Joemel Panisa heard this news report, but still did not remember the ticket sitting in his desk at home.
Time was running out to collect his prize, which would only be available to take home until January 15, 2017—exactly one year from when the ticket was purchased.
Joemel Finds His Ticket
As luck would have it, Oregon was hit by a series of snow storms in early January 2017. On January 9, 2017, Joemel Panisa was stuck at home with his family, unable to leave the house due to the bad weather. He decided to make himself useful and clean up the house.
While cleaning his office, Panisa came across the envelope with the ticket inside. He went online to check the numbers—and to his surprise, he realized he was in possession of a winning ticket! He had matched the five main numbers that were drawn but not the Mega Ball number.
Squeaking in under the deadline, Joemel Panisa was able to claim his $1 million prize just one week before the ticket was due to expire.
If he hadn’t found the ticket, his $1 million prize would have been sent to the Oregon state Economic Development Fund, and he, like Martyn Tott, would’ve likely experienced a lifetime of regret.
Joemel Panisa got lucky winning the lottery—and, like Nicole Pedneault and Roger Larocque, even luckier that he didn’t lose out on collecting his prize. Whether you play the lottery frequently or just once in a while, always make sure to put your tickets in a safe place and check them regularly. As several extremely unfortunate winners have discovered, there is no worse feeling in the world than winning the lottery—and then realizing you lost your ticket and have no chance to ever collect your winnings!