Saranac Lake man cashes in $5M lottery ticket

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SARANAC LAKE, N.Y. (WCAX) A Saranac Lake resident is set for life after a big win in the New York lottery.

When John Lewis went to the Tops Market one day this past June, he was just stopping by to get a single food item for a recipe. He ended up walking out a millionaire. "I told her, I think I think I won $5K a week for life," Lewis said.

At the last minute the Saranac Lake man chose to purchase a scratch off lottery ticket called "Set for Life," simply because he had enough change left over to buy either the $20 or $10 ticket. He went for the $10 ticket and wound up with the jackpot.

"It's pretty remarkable and exciting, especially in a small community like this, because you know, word of mouth spread rapid, because little old Saranac Lake, New York in the middle of nowhere. We had a huge winner," said Shawn Hayes, the market's manager.

Tuesday the New York Lottery's famous spokesperson Yolanda Vega presented him with a $5 million check at the market.

Lewis says once he verified the ticket was in fact a winner, he called his job to tell them he had good news and bad news. "I told him the good news was, I won the lottery, and they basically said 'So?' I said no, I won the lottery, and then he goes, 'Well how much?' And I told him, and he told me to send him a picture. Then he asked what the bad news was. It was I'm not coming to work," Lewis said.

Lewis chose to take the prize in annual payments rather than a lump sum. He'll get more than $172,000 annually for the rest of his life. Vega says that means he could end up with more than $5 million in all. "God forbid if he should pass -- and he did take the annuity -- we would guaranteed pay his estate up to $5 million, but we will stop at $5 million, because he's passed -- God forbid. But if he lives another 60 years, this can duplicate to $15 million," Vega said.

Lewis says he will use the money to help family, buy some property for himself and his girlfriend, and travel. "We purchased our season passes for Whiteface to ski -- maybe buy a new truck," he said.

Yolanda Vega: So you gonna stay local?

John Lewis: Yes.

A big win in a small New York village.