REGIONAL: Fortune cookie numbers win Mecklenburg County man $4 million

Published 9:06 am Friday, January 21, 2022

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RALEIGH – Gabriel Fierro of Cornelius took the numbers from his fortune cookie and used them in Tuesday’s Mega Millions drawing, turning a $3 ticket into a $4 million prize.

Fierro, a retired master sergeant who spent 32 years with the Army, said the fortune cookie came from the Red Bowl restaurant in Charlotte where he eats about once a week with his wife.

“I don’t usually play my fortune cookie numbers but I tried them on a whim,” Fierro said.

Fierro bought his lucky Mega Millions ticket using Online Play and added $1 to make it a Megaplier ticket to multiply any win. He matched all five white balls to win $1 million, and then the prize quadrupled to $4 million when the 4X Megaplier hit. His $4 million prize became the largest win in the history of Online Play in North Carolina.

“I got an email in the morning and I just stared at it dumbfounded,” Fierro said. “I took it and showed it to my wife and she thought it was an April Fool’s joke or maybe a scam.”

After the win sunk in, the celebration began. “We started running around the house,” Fierro said, “screaming like a bunch of banshees.”

Fierro, 60, retired as a disabled combat veteran after spending time in Iraq. He arrived at lottery headquarters on Thursday to collect his prize and, after federal and state tax withholdings, took home $2,840,401. He said he planned to invest most of his winnings but he did have one small purchase in mind.

“We are going to buy some champagne on the way home,” Fierro laughed.

North Carolinians have a chance in Friday’s Mega Millions drawing to win $376 million. A winner in North Carolina could take home the jackpot as an annuity paying out the $376 million over 29 years or choose instead to take home $256.4 million in cash.

Ticket sales from draw games such as Mega Millions help make it possible for the lottery to raise more than $900 million a year for education. For details on how lottery funds have made a difference in all of North Carolina’s 100 counties, click on the “Impact” section of the lottery’s website.