$1.3 billion Powerball winner revealed by Oregon Lottery as three people splitting jackpot

Home » $1.3 billion Powerball winner revealed by Oregon Lottery as three people splitting jackpot

Endearing and humble Laos native is one of three jackpot winners


Includes video report


By Kate Northrop


The Oregon Lottery revealed the identity of the winner for the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot at a press conference Monday, which turned out to be three people sharing one winning ticket.


One of the three winners of the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot appeared before the press at a news conference in Salem, where he revealed that the prize will be split between himself, his wife, and his friend.


Cheng “Charlie” Saephan, 46, of Portland appeared before cameras on Monday afternoon to tell the story of how he put his faith in both God and luck to help him win the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot, the fourth-largest lottery prize in the game’s history and the biggest prize ever awarded in Oregon.


He purchased $200 worth of Quick Pick tickets for the April 6, 2024 drawing and offered to share the cost of his lottery tickets with his wife, Duanpen, 37, and his friend, Laiza Chao, 55, of Milwaukie.


He had presented his winning ticket to the Oregon Lottery and stepped forward as the claimant just one day after the drawing occurred.


Now finding himself standing at the podium in the Oregon Lottery’s lobby, Saephan shared his story and the events that led up to the fateful moment he bought the lottery ticket that would make him hundreds of millions of dollars richer, sporting an earnest smile throughout.


Saephan was born in Laos and moved to Thailand in the 80’s, where he stayed for six years. He came to the United States in 1994 and graduated from high school two years later. He worked as a machinist for aerospace components up until 2016, the year he was diagnosed with cancer, after which he went on disability. He’s been battling it since then and is currently fighting a recurrence. His most recent round of chemotherapy was just last Monday, he told the crowd. With the hardships he’s endured, he said he’s been “blessed with this prize.”


“I will be able to provide for my family and my health,” Saephan said.


Saephan is no stranger to the lottery — he’s played from time to time — but more recently in the past four or five months, his lottery purchases picked up. There was some kind of feeling pushing him to play, a sixth sense about coming into a big win.


“Four or five months ago, I started playing big,” he said. “I had a feeling that was like a, ‘I’m gonna win it, I’m gonna win it — but I didn’t think I was gonna win this big!'”


The moment Saephan found out about the win, he felt excited, but his mind immediately went to his family. A smile grew on his face as he recalled his thought process.


“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m happy for my family — they will have a good life,’ but [thinking] to myself, I’m battling cancer, so I’m thinking, ‘How am I going to have time to spend all this money?'” he quipped endearingly, generating a good laugh from the audience.


When asked what his first purchase will be with the winnings, he answered without hesitation that he would buy a house, a “dream home.” Having resided in Oregon for 30 years, he loves where he lives. He plans on staying in the state and buying a home there.


Saephan shared a “magic trick” he said helped him win the lottery in the form of a single sheet of paper containing all playable numbers in the Powerball game. The regular white ball number matrix showing numbers 1 through 69 was written in black, and the red Powerball number matrix showing numbers 1 through 26 was highlighted in red.


“I had those numbers written, and I prayed to God, ‘God, Father, please, I am [struggling], I have young kids, a young wife, and I need some help,'” he told the crowd of reporters. “I don’t wanna die yet, unless I have something for my family first.”


He implored God to provide him the five winning white ball numbers and the one winning Powerball number from the matrices written on the sheet and slept with the piece of paper underneath his pillow for two weeks.


Then he won.


His winning numbers were purchased with a Quick Pick, he emphasized.


“God picked for me,” he said, pointing upwards. “So, thank you.” He laughed and elicited an amused applause from the spectators.


When asked whether he would continue to play the lottery, he grinned and responded with, “Yeah, I can get lucky again! I’ll keep playing.”


Saephan shared more about his arrangement with the other two lottery winners, his wife and friend. He was heading out to buy lottery tickets and asked Chao if she’d like to chip in $100 with him, so she contributed that amount toward the purchase of multiple tickets for the Powerball drawing.


After he bought the tickets, Chao texted him joking, “Hey! We’re billionaires!”


“And then the next morning, it really happened!” Saephan laughed.


The night of the draw, he was at another friend’s birthday party. It was after 11:00 pm, so he thought to check the results but saw it was delayed. He didn’t see any numbers, so he went to sleep.


At 6:00 am the following morning, he received a text from his sister saying that somebody in Portland, Oregon won the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot.


“Is it you?” the text read. “Check your tickets!”


He got to work at his kitchen table while his mother sat across from him enjoying a cup of coffee. Saephan was whittling away at the pile of tickets he and Laiza shared, and with six or seven tickets left, he “felt bad.” He was sure someone else in Portland had won, not him.


On the very last line of one of his remaining tickets, he saw six matching numbers. He put his hands down on the table and took a deep breath.


“Mom, we’re rich,” he humorously recalled telling his mother.


“Yeah, it’s me,” he also texted in a reply to his sister.


He called Chao to share the news when he discovered one of their tickets won.


“I said, ‘Laiza, where are you?’ and she said, ‘I’m going to work,'” he recounted. “I replied, ‘You don’t have to go anymore.'”


At first, she didn’t think Saephan was serious. He invited her to drive over to check the numbers herself. Saephan, his wife, and his friend were all looking at the ticket in disbelief, the three of them verifying the numbers over and over.


When asked whether he has taken any steps to protect himself considering his newly minted multi-millionaire status in the public eye, he responded that he has “to think about it.”


“I just said I’ll pray to God, “Protect me for whatever reason, and guide me to spend money in the right way, to do the right thing,” he responded. “I’m still working on things I’ve never done before. There’s a lot of stuff in my head. Beyond that, I will think about it later.”


Melanie Mesaros, a spokesperson for the Oregon Lottery, said that vetting procedures to verify the identity and legitimacy of the winner was done very quickly — “within a day or so.” What took longer, she said, was the process to collect the prize money from the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), who manages the game.


Between the day Saephan presented the winning ticket to the Lottery and the issuance of the payment, the Lottery also gave the claimants time to decide how they would like to be paid, either in the form of a one-time lump sum or an annuity.


Citing his age and health issues, Saephan said he opted to take the lump sum, which is what the other two winners have chosen as well. All three winners have been paid their share of the prize.


“I want to offer my heartfelt congratulations to the Saephans and Ms. Chao on this historic win,” Lottery Director Mike Wells said in a press release. “Not only is this prize life-changing for the three of them and their families, it’s also a huge win for the state.”


According to the Lottery, about a third of sales from Powerball will be returned to state beneficiaries to support economic development, education, veteran services, state parks, and more. Plaid Pantry, the retailer that sold the billion-dollar ticket, will also receive a $100,000 bonus.


The Powerball jackpot currently stands at $178 million for the next drawing on Wed., May 1 at 10:59 pm Eastern Time.


Powerball is played in 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Drawings are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays at 10:59 p.m. Eastern Time.  Tickets cost $2 each.


Powerball lottery results are published within minutes of the drawing at USA Mega (www.usamega.com).  The USA Mega website provides lottery players in-depth information about the United States’s two biggest multi-state lottery games, Mega Millions and Powerball.


VIDEO: Watch the press conference





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