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Deputy Retires on Lotto Jackpot

The veteran Fillmore officer claims half of this week's $42-million drawing, then says goodbye to the Sheriff's Department.

March 05, 2004|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

A veteran Ventura County sheriff's deputy retired a little earlier than planned Thursday after discovering he had purchased one of two winning tickets in this week's $42-million Super Lotto Plus drawing, winning half the jackpot.

Deputy Robert M. Arnold, 52, a fixture in Santa Clara Valley law enforcement for more than two decades, called in his immediate resignation Thursday afternoon, shortly after confirming that he was a lottery winner. His machine-generated numbers were 2-17-29-44-47, with 5 as the mega number.

"Right after he claimed the ticket, he turned around and retired," said lottery spokeswoman Norma Minas. "He told me: 'I was planning to retire in about a year, but now I can retire now.' "

Arnold walked into Central Market on Fillmore's Central Avenue, across the street from the sheriff's station, about 11:30 a.m. to verify his numbers, just as a lottery representative was hanging a banner that read: "Millionaire Made Here."

"He was nervous," store owner Nick Behniwal said of his lucky customer. Behniwal and his extended family, who own several markets and liquor stores in Ventura County, were also celebrating because retailers who sell winning Lotto tickets share in the prize money.

In this case, Central Market is eligible for $105,000 before taxes, which Behniwal said would come in handy with a son at Boston College and a daughter set to graduate from Ventura's Buena High School this spring.

An unidentified woman who accompanied Arnold to Central Market described him as "a quiet, low-key person."

Arnold, who could not be reached for comment after claiming his prize, has been with the Sheriff's Department since it merged with the Fillmore Police Department in June 1987.

Ralph Zermeno, administrative sergeant in Fillmore, said Arnold was unmarried, regularly worked the night shift and was known for stopping motorists suspected of driving under the influence. His efforts earned him an award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, according to Zermeno. "He's very good. He arrests drunk drivers," he said. "We're going to miss him dearly."

As one of about 30 sworn officers working in Fillmore, Arnold patrolled an area of Ventura County that stretches from the Los Angeles County line to Wells Road in Ventura, and includes the area north of Moorpark up to Ojai.

Minas said Arnold told her he had earlier won "a couple thousand dollars" playing the lottery, but only purchased "quick pick" tickets in the Super Lotto Plus game when jackpots were $30 million or greater. He said Arnold's plans included retirement, relaxing, buying a new residence and helping his family.

Because Arnold opted to receive his winnings in a single payment, in four to six weeks he will receive a check for about $10.5 million minus taxes, Minas said. State officials withhold from 26% to 29% of that amount to cover federal taxes.

The holder of the second winning ticket was identified Thursday afternoon as Janice Flaxbeard, a postal worker in Redding. She told Lotto officials that she and her husband, who will hold a news conference today, planned to use some of the money to go "fishing for alligators in Australia."

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