From the time he bought the $5 lottery ticket at a Forest Hills convenience store to the moment he claimed his prize, Montero kept the million-dollar stub locked in his grip.Such obsessive wariness was not unfounded. Montero remembers all too painfully last summer when he entrusted a $1,000 winning ticket he purchased on a Friday in Washington Heights to his girlfriend, only to hear that she lost it before the claims office opened Monday."It was very depressing," Montero said last Thursday to reporters and photographers packed inside Prime Stationers on 71st Avenue where he bought his most recent winning ticket March 15. But the Bronx native struggled to restrain a permanent grin while standing behind a mammoth coffee cake and holding an equally large check for $50,000 -- his first of 20 annual payments. The first check will net out at to $31,032 after taxes. Montero, a floating construction worker and film developer for a Queens-based printing company, was the man who popped the cork of New York Lottery's new Max-A-Million game, just six days after the tickets went on sale."I didn't know if I was dreaming," he said, describing his reaction when he scratched off the matching six numbers while walking back to a job in Forest Hills. He re-enacted his initial response by stepping back as if faltering and said he felt "confused."At the snack shop last week, after the shock wore off, a more pragmatic Montero said he would first buy a house and then talk with a bank manager about investing what is left. He insisted he would continue working with his supervisor on construction jobs throughout the boroughs but added slyly that his boss may be his partner soon. Harry Patel, co-owner of the family-run Prime Stationers, said he prayed that Montero's good fortune would spread to his business."Hopefully, people will think this is a lucky store," he said. Indeed, according to Patel, someone won $7 million from a lottery stub purchased there four years ago. Ever since he turned rich, Montero said he has met relatives and friends he never knew he had. "Some guy I didn't know so well called and said, 'So, you going to buy me a flight for Santa Domingo?'" he said, his smile showing a couple of gold-plated teeth. "I say, 'OK, but don't hold your breath.'"As for the girlfriend who lost his first winning ticket: "She's gone," he said.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2005 Community News Group
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