KEY POINTS

  • A retired Army veteran won $4 million from North Carolina's Mega Millions lottery
  • He got his winning set of numbers from a fortune cookie he got at a Charlotte restaurant
  • The money will go to mostly investments

A 60-year-old retired Army veteran in North Carolina won $4 million playing the lottery after using numbers from a fortune cookie, officials said last week.

Gabriel Fierro's $3 Mega Millions ticket matched all five white balls from the game's Jan. 18 drawing, operator North Carolina Education Lottery said in a statement released Friday.

As Fierro added $1 when he bought his ticket using Online Play to turn his entry into a Megaplier ticket, his prize quadrupled to $4 million when it got the 4X Megaplier hit — the largest win in the history of Online Play, according to lottery officials.

Fierro's winning numbers came from a fortune cookie that he got from the Red Bowl restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, that he and his wife ate at about once a week.

"I don't usually play my fortune cookie numbers, but I tried them on a whim," the 32-year Army veteran said.

Fierro, who retired as a disabled combat veteran after spending time in Iraq, said that he and his wife "started running around the house" and "[screamed] like a bunch of banshees" after he was informed of the win.

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

Fierro arrived at North Carolina Education Lottery's headquarters in Charlotte Thursday to collect his prize, which was $2,840,401 after federal and state tax withholdings.

Most of the winnings will be going to investments, but Fierro noted that he had one small purchase in mind.

"We are going to buy some champagne on the way home," Fierro said.

A survey conducted by fortune cookie-based marketing and manufacturing group OpenFortune revealed that 146 lottery winners who won a total of $406,657,618 between 2004 and 2021 were inspired to play after opening a fortune cookie.

"It's obvious – fortune cookies instill feelings of luck and prosperity. But we were shocked by the sheer number of people who played, and actually won, using the motivation from their fortune. That small slip of paper is powerful and elicits emotions that can ultimately lead people to make life-changing decisions," said Matt Williams, the company's chief cookie officer.

food-4773380_1920 Representation. Gabriel Fierro's winning Mega Millions numbers allegedly originated from a fortune cookie that came from the Red Bowl restaurant in Charlette that he and his wife dined at about once a week. Photo: Pixabay