Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

A pair of lucky Queens lottery players showed off their winnings Monday in front of dozens of gamblers who were testing their own luck at Aqueduct’s new racino.

Maria Sandoval, 74, of Jackson Heights, and Marco Sierra, 49, of Woodside, said they were ecstatic when they found out they were going to be millionaires when they won two separate lottery games last month. The pair had huge smiles as famed New York Lottery spokeswoman Yolanda Vega handed them and two other lottery winners from Long Island their checks for their winnings.

“One dollar, one million bucks,” Sierra said as a crowd of Aqueduct players and supporters cheered him on.

Sandoval, who retired 11 years ago as a maintenance worker at the World Trade Center, won $1 million on the Mega Money Multiplier scratch-off game. On Oct. 26, the mother of seven went to her usual grocery store, Pena Food Grocery, on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, and purchased her ticket.

She said she usually has better luck on new tickets when they arrive at the store and on that day her hunch was right. Sandoval scratched the right spaces on the card and revealed that she won a million-dollar prize.

“I cried,” she said. “I couldn’t believe when the guy [at the store] said to me, ‘Maria, you won a million dollars.’”

Sandoval went to the Lottery customer service center on Beaver Street, down the block from her old office and claimed her prize the next day.

Less than 24 hours later, Sierra, who works at a Laundromat on Broadway in Woodside, got his own lucky lottery win. After a long day at work, he decided to stop by a liquor store near his Laundromat and picked up a Sweet Million numbers game ticket.

“I was kind of bored and decided to play Sweet Million,” he recalled.

Sierra decided to use Quick Pick and his casual purchase turned out to be the million-dollar jackpot. He said he was stunned when his ticket matched up to the winning numbers, but his shock quickly turned into excitement.

“It’s a little overwhelming to tell you the truth,” he said.

Both Sandoval and Sierra took their winnings in one lump sum payment and each earned $621,540 after taxes, according to lottery officials. The winners said they will be using the money for their own expenses but did not shy away from the idea of indulging with lavish gifts.

“I have to pay a lot of bills,” Sandoval said. “But I would really like to go to Las Vegas.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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