Marvin Martinez, 27, picked up a "Win $1,000 a Week for Life" scratch card while he and a coworker were clearing storm-downed leaves in Bayville, on Long Island, last November.
"I still don’t know what made me pick it up,” Martinez said. "This was someone else's luck, but my ticket!"
Martinez picked up the ticket and realized what he'd found -- but was unable to claim his prize for more than a year. The lottery office on Long Island had lost power because of the late October storm, and when it did reopen, officials had to investigate his claim.
"I forgot about it,” Martinez explained. That is, until earlier this month, when he received a call from the New York Lottery.
“A standard and thorough internal security investigation found no reason to believe that the ticket wasn’t rightfully the property of Mr. Martinez,” a spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission said. “There was no report of theft or of a ticket being misplaced.”
In instances such as these, it’s standard practice for the Lottery to require a one-year waiting period before awarding the prize in case anyone else comes forward.
Martinez, who got married last month before he knew he'd won, said his winnings -- $515,612 after taking a lump sum payout and taxes -- won't change him.
"This won't change the way I live my life," he said. "I'm still going to keep working six days a week."
He says he's considering buying a house for himself and his wife, fixing the hurricane's damage to his mother's home, and maybe take a trip.
"My wife and I didn't go on a honeymoon, so maybe we'll take a trip to Miami or something," he said. "I want to keep living a normal life. This won't change us."