BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – For six months we’ve been waiting to find out about an unclaimed Mega Millions lottery ticket purchased in Bakersfield last July. Now, just as that prize money was about to be forfeited because a winner hadn’t stepped forward, we have a possible resolution to the story.

On July 15, 2022, with the jackpot at $480 million, someone in Bakersfield bought a Mega Millions ticket from a vending machine inside east Bakersfield’s Albertson’s supermarket.

No one in the U.S. won the big prize – but one person hit five out of the six numbers: a local person who missed only the Mega number, 15. And five out of the six numbers was worth a tidy $973,668. 

But for most of those six months, it seemed possible that that ticket could be worth zero. Mega Millions players only have 180 days to claim their prize — and Wednesday was day 180.

Imagine this: You find a Mega Millions ticket you forgot you purchased, except now you’re a day late claiming it.

Jorge Aragon knows what kind of reaction he’d have. But, owing to FCC regulations and his own good taste, he decided not to share the specific words he had in mind.

“I won’t say it on TV,” he said. “(But) I’ll be crying. I’ll be crying.”

Some we talked to said they would appeal the 180-day rule. 

“I would be so mad at myself, I would start crying,” said Miriam Barron, a CSUB student. “I would try to fight it.”

Vanessa Gonsalez, an Albertson’s employee coming back to the store from her break, said she would also look into her options if she were late in making a claim.

“I would try to claim it,” she said, “but I’m pretty sure we couldn’t, right?”

Alan Rogers rejected the premise of the question. He’d never be in that position, he said.

“Well, to be honest, it’s not a problem for me because I’m morally opposed to lottery tickets so I would never buy one to start with,” he said. “(But) I can empathize with the anxiety connected with it, I suppose.”

The Albertson’s store manager wouldn’t go on camera, but he told KGET off-camera that investigators with the lottery  – yes, the lottery has investigators – had contacted the store twice in recent weeks trying to resolve the situation – and they have in their possession store security video they believe shows the lottery-ticket buyer in question. The manager said it was possible they might even have that person’s name.

Late Wednesday afternoon, an official with the State Lottery Commission called KGET to say the prize of just under $1 million is “not unclaimed.” They use that convoluted wording because it’s against policy to say the prize has been claimed if it has not yet been formally verified as valid.  The Commission’s Carolyn Becker said they are in the latter stages of the verification process.

The claimant’s name has not been announced and may never be announced. But if that person steps forward, KGET will tell you about it.