Calimesa man wins
$180 million Mega Millions jackpot
A 53-year-old Calimesa man who was on a winning streak at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio didn’t realize until later that he also happened to be a big winner elsewhere — until he looked at the numbers on his Mega Millions lottery tickets and realized he’d won $180 million in the California Lottery.
Rick Knudsen, 53, was introduced Wednesday as the big winner of the Aug. 22 Mega Millions drawing.
He was the only person in the country to match all six numbers (5-31-34-41-74 and Mega number 3).
He is taking the lump sum cash option and will walk away with $107 million before federal taxes.
Lottery officials said the “Inland Empire is on a roll!”
Knudsen, a “now-retired” RWC Building Products branch manager, said he plays the lottery only a few times a year, and only when he feels lucky.
“I bought something and it was $6 even. No change. And then later on that morning, I bought something somewhere else and it was $9 even. Five different places that day I didn’t pay any change. The totals were all even amounts,” Knudsen said in a news release. “I’m a numbers freak and that all means something in my head. So I said, ‘I gotta stop somewhere and buy a (lottery) ticket.'”
The next morning, the day of the draw, he again bought something and it came out even.
That evening, he met his family at a time share in Indio.
“I went with my wife down to the cantina to buy some things for the room.” You guessed it: It was like $24 – EVEN!!” Knudsen said.
Knudsen, who had no idea his winning Mega Millions numbers had already been drawn, met his children at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. “Everywhere I played I won! I played on seven different machines (ironically lucky seven – the same number of even-money purchases he had made) and I won on every single one of them. I said I’m getting out of here!”
The next morning, on Aug. 23, Knudsen got a call from his sister informing him that someone from Calimesa had won the $180 million jackpot. “She said, ‘Did you happen to buy one?’ I said, ‘I did!’ When she said it was the Calimesa 7-Eleven, I looked up the numbers and said, ‘Oh my God.’ I looked at the numbers three different times and I just about fainted! My family and I were yelling and hugging. We drove home. It took 45 minutes but it felt like an entire day – felt like we were driving in the river!”
Not surprisingly, after 35 years in the roofing business, Knudsen is calling it quits. Before he came forward with the winning ticket Tuesday , he said he decided to go on a previously planned Alaskan fishing trip adventure with some soon-to-be former co-workers, including his boss. That’s when he broke the news. “It was bittersweet. When you like your job – I’d been working there since I was 19,” his voice trailing off.
The long time Riverside County resident says he will be helping his church with some things, including a new roof. “And then enjoy life – help my (five) kids and (three) grandkids.
“A friend of mine told me he heard the odds of winning (the Mega Millions jackpot) are the same as you being eaten by a shark and lightning hitting you at the same time – and probably some other things as well! I just had a feeling. I only play when I feel lucky. And I felt lucky.” Knudsen has enough money now to tell merchants, “Keep the change!” no matter how the total works out in the future.
A little more than six weeks ago, John “Jack” Long won a $60 million Powerball jackpot in Fontana when he matched all of his numbers during the July 19 draw.