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Miracle advice pays off nicely for lottery winner

A New Port Richey man's five lucky numbers turn into $106,000. A paid mortgage and a trip to Puerto Rico lie ahead.

By MARY SPICUZZA, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 10, 2002

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Israel Nieves can't stop thinking about an old friend who told him it takes a miracle to win the lottery.

For Nieves, winning nearly $106,000 in Thursday's Fantasy 5 drawing was a much simpler process.

The 58-year-old New Port Richey man stopped at the In N Out convenience store at 2908 Seven Springs Blvd. earlier this week to visit the owner, an old friend.

"I asked for a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a Fantasy 5 ticket," Nieves said.

That ticket matched the winning numbers of Thursday night's drawing. Nieves and another ticket holder, who bought a Fantasy 5 in Miami, will split the winnings.

Nieves went online Friday morning and checked the Web site, "And there it was," Nieves said. "All my fine numbers on the screen."

He called his wife, Sandra, to tell her about his lucky ticket. She didn't believe him at first.

She quickly called back to celebrate.

As for his four sons?

"They will find out. Eventually," he said with a laugh.

Nieves, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, said he hopes to use his winnings to visit his family there. His three sisters, two brothers and numerous other relatives still live in the San Juan area.

He also plans to pay off a second mortgage for his New Port Richey home.

But on Friday afternoon, Nieves was working at his telecommunications job in St. Petersburg, where he installs and repairs computers.

He hopes to keep a low profile. When he went to the lottery office in Clearwater to pick up his check Friday, Nieves declined photographs and interviews.

Nieves said it might have not been a miracle that he won, but he still believes there was some divine intervention involved.

"Whoever is in charge of the lottery up in heaven, he was saving that ticket for me," he said.

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