Biggest Michigan Lottery Winners
Who's won the lottery in Michigan? Read on to find out the biggest winners in the history of the MI Lottery, including the amount they won and the games that delivered the record-breaking prizes. It could be your turn next!
Michigan's largest wins have come from Powerball and Mega Millions. The state joined Powerball fairly recently, in January 2010. However, Michigan was one of the founding lotteries that launched The Big Game in 1996, which was rebranded as Mega Millions in 2002.
The state's homegrown games have also produced some impressive prizes. The highest-ever Lotto 47 win was $32.3 million, hit in November 2020 by two tickets sold in Ferndale and Lake Odessa.
Donald Lawson, $337 Million
44-year-old Donald Lawson of Lapeer hit an incredible $337 million Powerball jackpot on August 15, 2012, the largest prize in Michigan Lottery history. He opted for the cash lump sum and received $224.6 million before withholdings; post-taxes, the win was approximately $158.7 million.
After his daughter told him that the jackpot had been won in Lapeer, Lawson checked his numbers. "I couldn't breath," he said. "I had to look at the ticket twice."
Lawson wasted no time in telling family members about his good fortune. "I called my sister and told her to quit her job and come home. She laughed and said, 'Did you win the lottery?' and I said yes!"
Then, "I called my mom and told her I won $200,000 on the lottery and she didn't believe me. Finally I said, 'Okay. I'll tell you the truth. I won $337 million!"
Julie Leach, $310 Million
When Three Rivers resident Julie Leach scooped a $310.5 million Powerball prize on September 30, 2015, "I didn't go to sleep for over 30 hours when I found out," she told the Michigan Lottery. Leach, 50, chose to be paid a single lump sum of $197.4 million. After taxes, the prize was about $140 million.
Leach immediately quit her job at a fiberglass factory, and said the win was a chance to take care of her three kids and 11 grandchildren. She recalled that winning the lottery was a long-standing family dream: "We always talked around campfires ... saying if we ever won the lottery we wanted to buy a bunch of land and build all of our kids a home - basically have our own little community."
Ralph and Mary Stebbins, $208 Million
Ralph and Mary Stebbins of Port Huron hit the $208 million Mega Millions grand prize on April 22, 2005, which they quickly claimed, coming forward on April 29. They opted for a lump sum payout and took home $124.7 million pre-tax. The win was the culmination of regularly buying five Easy Pick Mega Millions tickets every week.
At the time of their win, the couple had been married for 23 years and had three children. Mr. Stebbins quit his job at a well-digging company and Mrs. Stebbins also retired from her job as a sales clerk. They purchased a farm with their winnings and Mr. Stebbins collected motorcycles and a 1963 Corvette.
In October 2006, Mr. Stebbins was charged with attempted murder after he allegedly stabbed his daughter's boyfriend during an altercation. Stebbins had a fatal heart attack in December 2006 at age 43 as the case was pending.
Larry Ross, $181 Million
47-year-old Larry Ross of Shelby Township won $181.5 million playing the Big Game lottery on May 9, 2000 - and it was all thanks to a hot dog. During his lucky lunch break on the day of the drawing, Ross also purchased 98 lottery tickets. He split the largest-ever US lottery jackpot at the time with a ticket in Illinois (The Big Game was rebranded as Mega Millions in 2002). Ross took the cash option lump sum and received around $61 million after taxes.
It took him, his wife Nancy, and their three children some time to process that they would now be swimming in money. "We're still in stunned mode," he told a press conference. "I haven't slept in three days. It's a great diet program, win the lotto and lose weight. I haven't eaten in three days."
Nancy was the one who suggested her husband buy the winning ticket, and she planned to get a purple Jaguar, the one thing she wanted since their marriage, as well as do charity work.
Ross retired from his swimming pool business, where he'd previously worked up to 100 hours a week in the summer. He said his sons would take over in time and "I'd like to start a new job playing golf."
Steve Mays, $141 Million
Steve Mays of Gladstone scored a $141 million Mega Millions jackpot on October 29, 2010. The Upper Peninsula resident claimed the prize on the same day as Team Victory (see below) and opted for a yearly annuity payment of about $5.4 million. "I’ve been retired for 10 years," he told MI Lottery officials. "The last couple have been tough and this prize is going to make things a whole lot easier." He wasn't sure yet what he would do with his winnings, saying that was "to be determined."
David Sneath, $136 Million
Livonia man David Sneath won the $136 million Mega Millions jackpot on his 60th birthday, April 1, 2008, but it was no April Fool! He stepped forward to claim the incredible win after just two days and decided to take the payout as a lump sum of $84.3 million - $59.6 million after withholdings.
However, winning the lottery on April 1st meant it was hard to convince his family he wasn't pulling their leg. "I called my sister; she didn't believe me. I called my daughter; she thought I was nuts," he said.
Although Sneath retired from his job at a Ford parts warehouse, he didn't forget the four co-workers he'd played the lottery with regularly, saying it was "the least I could do" to gift them $1 million each! Sneath said his own plans included buying a cottage in northern Michigan and a fishing boat.
Team Victory, $128 Million
The Team Victory lottery pool scored a win befitting their name on November 6, 2010, when their ticket hit a $128.6 million Powerball prize. Mike Greer of Farmington Hills claimed on behalf of the group, telling officials they "are still in a state of shock. The prize is a blessing. We love southeast Michigan and plan to stay here. We will give some to the church and maybe fix some things around the house." The group decided to share the cash option of $69.6 million before withholdings.
P1 Gold Lottery Club, $46.5 Million
The P1 Gold Lottery Club of Belleville, a group of 13 postal workers, held one of two winning Mega Millions tickets that split a $93 million jackpot on February 1, 2011. The other ticket was sold in Indiana. Each ticket was worth $46.5 million with the annuity option; the Michigan winners chose to take their prize as a lump sum payment of $29 million before taxes.
The first to realize they'd won were Hosea and Charlene Person, who were looking for weather updates after a snowstorm when they saw the lottery numbers on TV. After checking carefully, Charlene said they were "screaming and hollering" and started singing "We're in the Money." Hosea contacted his co-workers with the big news; one mail carrier's wife called him as he was making deliveries through deep snow, but had trouble convincing her husband of their good fortune. "I told her to stop messing with me, because it's cold outside!" he said.
Phillip Chippewa, $80 Million
It was the best impulse purchase ever. Suttons Bay resident Phillip Chippewa, 54, said that he nearly didn't buy his winning ticket, but on the spur of the moment he got four plays. That was one of the best decisions of his life - one of the tickets hit the Powerball top prize of $80 million on September 21, 2019. Chippewa opted to receive his winnings as a lump sum of $55.2 million, or about $42 million after withholdings.
After the draw, Chippewa checked the ticket and realized he'd won, but his wife and son thought he was joking, "so my son pulled the numbers up on his phone and read them out loud while Dawn and I looked at the ticket together," Chippewa said. "By the time he was done, we both had tears in our eyes."
Chippewa informed the rest of his family at a meeting soon afterwards. "There were a lot of emotions in that room because we've always put our family first and it hasn't always been easy, but all of them were so happy for us," he told Lottery officials. "With seven children and 21 grandchildren, I've always said that I might not have the most money, but I am rich with family. Now, I have all the money I'll ever need and can help my family for generations. That means everything to me."
Chippewa said both he and his wife Dawn, who have been together for 25 years, will continue to work and give back to their community.
Dick Zelasko, $80 Million
Troy resident Dick Zelasko told lottery officials he carried an $80 million winning Mega Millions ticket around with him for weeks without realizing how much it was worth. "That would have been a terrible time to lose your wallet," he laughed. The lucky ticket hit the jackpot on July 5, 2013.
Zelasko scanned the ticket several times and got a message to contact the Lottery, although he didn't pay much heed to it. Eventually he checked the numbers online, but "I thought someone was playing a joke on me," he said. "We paced and paced all night."
The prize was certainly no joke. Zelasko said he planned to get a new house and car, although the biggest benefit is "to just take care of family and enjoy the peace of mind" the money brought.
Cristy Davis, $70 Million
Cristy Davis of Waterford had an understandable reaction after learning she'd won the $70 million Powerball jackpot. "After I checked it, all could do was scream," she said. "Everyone from work came running to check on me. Once I got calmed down, my boss made sure I was able to get a ride home because there was no way I would be able to drive after learning I was a multi-millionaire."
Before her life-changing win on February 12, 2020, Davis, 40, was living with her grandmother and struggling to make ends meet as a mother of two and grandma of one. But after receiving her lump sum payment of $49.7 million before taxes, financial worries were the last thing on her mind.
Kelsey Zachow, $66 Million
Friday the 13th was most definitely not an unlucky day for Kelsey Zachow - in fact, it was the day the Port Huron resident hit the $66 million Mega Millions jackpot. 10 days after the drawing on June 13, 2014, Zachow, 24, scanned her ticket, but "when the clerk at the store told me I had a big winner I was positive that he was mistaken," she said.
With a long line behind her, she went to her car and checked her numbers online. "That's when I realized I had won the jackpot and could barely breathe."
When she arrived home, "I was screaming 'I won! I won!' at the top of my lungs and [my boyfriend] came running into the room," said Zachow. "I was yelling so much that he thought I had been in a car accident or hit someone on my way home. I told him I had a $66 million ticket in my hand and he didn’t believe me. He finally looked at the ticket and couldn’t believe his eyes."
After meeting with professionals to make plans, which included using some of the money to buy a house and help her family, Zachow claimed the prize, choosing a lump sum payout of almost $38 million - about $27 million after taxes.