On a day when his boss won $68, Carlos Olvera stole virtually all of the thunder Thursday by capturing the largest individual payoff in the two-year history of the California lottery--a cool $25 million.
The 40-year-old factory worker, a crew supervisor at Industrial Polychemical Co. in Carson, drew all six winning numbers in Wednesday's Lotto 6/49 game. The numbers--25, 15, 24, 16, 48 and 31--showed up on his $1 ticket from a "quick pick" machine, which automatically selects numbers at random for customers.
Olvera bought the ticket at a liquor store in Gardena, a few blocks from where he works.
"Basically, he bought his tickets on the way home from work," California Lottery spokesman John Schade said Thursday.
Checks and Double-Checks
Olvera, who lives in Compton with his wife and three children, was unaware that his numbers had been selected until shortly after the 11 a.m. lunch break Thursday, when he saw the winning numbers in the newspaper, according to his boss, Jose Frias.
Frias, plant foreman at the chemical company--which makes plastic cement for industrial pipes--said Olvera was so fearful of a mistake that he grabbed a second newspaper to double-check the results.
After that, Frias said, Olvera just "went nuts."
"At first he started shaking, like he was ready to have a stroke or a heart attack," the plant foreman recalled. "Then he started jumping and screaming, saying, 'I think I got the six numbers!' . . . and everybody was congratulating him and saying, 'Carlos got it! Carlos got it!'
"And he started running from one end of the plant to another. That's about 50 yards. It was really something."
Indeed, it was an extraordinary day at a place where most--if not all--of the 52 employees have been regular Lotto players, with only middling success. Frias, 33, who plays three tickets a week, rain or shine, got four of the six numbers correct and will collect $68--the only time he's won more than $5.
Olvera found himself more popular than he's ever imagined, surrounded by joking and laughing colleagues. He tried briefly to get back to his work--but soon came to his senses.
"He actually went back to work and then, later on, he asked me if he could leave and claim his prize," an incredulous Frias recalled. "I said, 'Sure, go ahead.' So he left and I haven't heard from him."
Frias joked that he isn't sure he ever will.
"Probably two months from now he's going to be my boss," Frias said.
Olvera, who has worked at the plant for 15 years, spent much of Thursday afternoon at the California Lottery's regional office in Whittier, answering questions and filling out paper work. Officials plan to hold a press conference this morning at the Biltmore in Los Angeles to formally announce the results, but they confirmed late Thursday that Olvera was their man.
"We know he is--we've got that far already," said Ulysses Carter, the lottery's district manager.
Lottery officials said Olvera's jackpot--actually $25,140,000--will be paid in 20 equal installments over 20 years. Every year he will get $1,257,000 . . . or, after taxes, $1,005,600. The first check will arrive in about 10 days, spokesman Schade said.
Olvera's 12-year-old son, Carlos (Steve) Olvera Jr., said that "a whole bunch" of relatives and friends were at the family's home Thursday night, where "my aunt is pouring champagne." His father was there briefly, "happy and excited" over the jackpot, before leaving to celebrate with his wife Sophia, the son said.
Carlos Jr. drew laughter from guests by predicting his father would give him "some of the money . . . I don't know, maybe 200 bucks."
Meanwhile, store owner Don Choi at Choice Liquor, where Olvera purchased the winning ticket, already was taking advantage of possible publicity. His store was festooned with signs Thursday afternoon announcing, somewhat inaccurately: "$24-Million Lottery Winner."
Officials confirmed that Choi will receive a small fraction of the prize--one-half of 1%, a none-too-shabby $100,000-plus. "That's big money," he said, adding that he also plays Lotto weekly. "But compared with the winner, that means nothing."
Times staff writer Adrianne Goodman contributed to this story.