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Jan 5, 2011 10:10 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Family Wins Lottery Prize

Jan 5, 2011 10:10 AM

When Hampton Bays resident Shefki Mati borrowed $6,000 from a friend to fund a vacation to Albania with his daughter, Shpresa, last summer, his wife, Teuta Zekaj, became concerned about his ability to pay the money back.

But he had every confidence.

“I said to my wife, ‘Don’t worry,’” Mr. Mati recalled last Thursday afternoon at his home. “‘We’ll win the lottery.’”

And just about two weeks ago, they did. The couple cashed in a third-place winning Mega Millions ticket—one of the drawings the New York State Lottery participates in—from the December 21 game. The gross payout: $10,000.

“It feels good, but I would feel better if we hit the whole thing,” Mr. Mati said, referring to the $168 million grand prize that day. “We missed it by one number. I hate winning and losing halfway.”

Mr. Mati paid $5 for a Quick Pick ticket at the 7-Eleven on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays, he said. With the Quick Pick, the computer generated his six numbers—8, 11, 13, 31, 32, and the supplementary number, or Mega Ball, 29. The 55-year-old, who was a carpenter before being injured on the job, said he usually picks celebratory dates to play, like his family members’ birthdays.

The following morning, Mr. Mati awoke at 5 a.m.—which is not unusual for him, he said—and flipped on the television, tuning it to ABC. What happened next caught him off guard.

“For some reason, I started thinking about the lottery tickets that I’d left in the car,” he said. “Something told me that there was something there, some kind of force made me go get them.”

His instincts were dead on, he realized, as he watched the lottery ticker scroll across the bottom of the television screen, his ticket clutched in one hand. But there was one number missing. Instead of 13, the winning number was 12.

“I yelled ‘Damn it!’ and slammed my fists on the kitchen table,” Mr. Mati recalled. “‘Damn it, damn it, damn it!’”

The commotion woke up Shpresa for a moment, but she said she forced herself to fall back asleep. Hours later, she said she did not believe her father when he told her they’d won the lottery.

“I didn’t think it was real,” she said. “He’s always joking about stuff like this.”

Mr. Mati’s ticket was one of 13 in New York to win the third-place prize, in which four out of five numbers plus the Mega Ball must be matched. Across the country, 10 tickets—two of them in New York—hit five straight numbers for a second place prize of $250,000 each, according to the lottery.

The Mati family is no stranger to the New York Lottery scene. In fact, this is their third win, they said, but by far their largest payday. Prior wins yielded $1,300 and $2,500, they said, and this time around, the payout was $6,600 after the state deducted a 34-percent tax—a portion of which aids education funding.

Since the lottery’s founding more than 40 years ago, more than $39.3 billion has been provided for education support statewide, according to the lottery’s website. This past year, the lottery contributed nearly $2.7 billion to local school districts.

“I think that’s a great thing—I just hope that’s where it really goes,” Mr. Mati said. “Why not share that kind of money with someone who needs it? That’s what I would do if I won the big money—keep what you need and donate the rest.”

Mr. Mati doled out the prize money among his family after repaying $6,250 to his friend. Each of his children, Shpresa, 15, and her brother, Shpetim, 16, received $100, and Ms. Zekaj was given $150. The 39-year-old said she plans to buy a pair of jeans, and her daughter said she used her slice to buy a New Year’s Eve outfit.

“It was great, I just wish it was the whole pie,” Ms. Zekaj said of the win. “But it’s better to have something than nothing.”

And the family is not giving up on hoping that the big prize is headed their way soon.

“Life is risky business and you need to take chances sometimes,” Mr. Zekaj said. “If you don’t play, you’re never going to get it.”

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Whether you're one number off or not is totally random. Ingrate.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Jan 5, 11 9:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
jealous much?
By tm (174), mtk on Jan 6, 11 11:32 AM
Good for you!!! Enjoy it!!!
By honeylamb (71), East Quogue on Jan 5, 11 9:32 PM
Great story, congratulations on your win!
By Court (10), Courtney Ratcliffe, 27east.com on Jan 6, 11 12:02 PM
Sounds like his friend was the real winner!
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 6, 11 12:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
Now our 7-11 is lucky! Congratulations!
By artizt101 (29), Hampton Bays on Jan 7, 11 7:11 AM
i was off by one digit once on the mega ball and an $80 payout would have been $180K. Oh well, life goes on . $80 is better than zero dollars. Congrats on the win. I'm sure these people could really use the $10k . Good onya.
By Bilge Water (131), Southampton on Jan 7, 11 4:41 PM
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