Hammond workers cash in on Mega Millions
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent August 15, 2013 9:32PM
A Hoosier Lottery representative (from left); Mega Millions $250,000 winners Mark D’Angelo, Scott D’Angelo and Steve Ihnat; and Paradise Liquors owner Andy Teibel pose outside the store Thursday as they collect their winnings. Thirty-one employees of the City of Hammond, some friends, as well as Teibel, received a portion of the jackpot. | Michelle L. Quinn for the Post-Tribune/Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 17, 2013 8:19AM
WHITING — Thirty-one employees of the city of Hammond and a select few of their closest friends are about to become slightly more than $5,000 richer.
The “Hammond 36,” as they’ve taken to calling themselves, won $250,000 in mid-June after purchasing $360 worth of Mega Millions tickets May 14.
The group’s winning ticket matched the first five numbers but missed the Mega Ball number in the June 14 drawing.
“If we’d have accomplished this in Powerball, we’d have gotten $1 million,” Steve Ihnat, the group’s representative, said proudly.
Ihnat, who said he’s been collecting money from his coworkers in the Hammond Streets and Sanitation and Parks, and Recreation departments for the lottery for 30 years, said he’d collected the money like he normally does but almost didn’t get to a ticket vendor in time. Thankfully, Paradise Liquors, at 1506 119th St., was close by.
The group had forgotten about the purchase, but Paradise owner Andy Teibel got word the winning ticket had been purchased at his store shortly after the drawing.
“We were telling everyone to check their tickets,” Teibel said. “It was probably two months we were telling them to check, but it seemed like forever.”
Until Ihnat showed up at the store, took him into the back room and said, “I hear you’ve been looking for me.”
At that point, he’d already contacted Hoosier Lottery officials in Indianapolis.
“In doing this for 30 years — I’ve pretty much broken even,” Ihnat said. “The only other prize we’ve one is $100.”
Of the 36 winners, 31 work for the city of Hammond, Ihnat said. Of them, 14 are in Streets, eight are from Parks and Recreation, seven are from Sanitation, two are retired from Sanitation and five are “really good friends” of the 36.
Mark D’Angelo, of Hammond, falls into the last category because his brother, Scott D’Angelo, and father, George D’Angelo, work for the city.
Mark D’Angelo said his money has been earmarked by his fiancee, Susan Vance, for their wedding next year, but not before he makes one special purchase.
“I’m buying Steve a box of steaks from (Meats by Linz of Calumet City, Ill., where he works),” he said.
Mark D’Angelo said his father called him two weeks ago Friday with the news. He thought his dad was lying.
“He took our mom out for her birthday. They like going to car shows, so they had plans to go out to eat, then went to Zel’s in Schererville for the car show in their ’63 Impala,” he said.
Even Teibel will get in on the action. He found out Thursday he’ll receive $2,500, or 1 percent, of the jackpot for selling the winning ticket.
“It’ll go back into the store to pay some bills, and a nice dinner with my wife, Michelle,” Teibel said.
Ihnat’s advice for anyone playing in a big group needs to make sure to keep impeccable records as to who’s contributing money.
He has his own system, but others can find forms on the Hoosier Lottery site, lottery spokeswoman Betsy Gutierrez said.
And the ringleader plans to enjoy his winnings in comfort.
“I’m going to buy me a reclining chair, one that puts me to sleep,” he said.
The only site to ever have won a Mega Millions jackpot is the Strack and Van Til grocery store on Ridge Road in Munster, according to Hoosier Lottery officials. That ticket garnered a $45 million jackpot in February 2011.