TODAY   |  November 03, 2012

She claims lottery prize after forgetting about ticket

A woman got the shock of her life when she discovered she’d forgotten about a lottery ticket, worth $23 million, that she’d stashed in the glove compartment of her car. TODAY’s Jenna Wolfe reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we've all bought a lottery ticket . maybe more than one. maybe tucked it away, you never checked the number. one california woman did the same thing. with days to go until the jackpot expired, she almost lost out on not just a few dollars, millions of dollars.

>> jenna is back now with more on this story. hey, jenna.

>> here's the deal. julie went from rags to riches literally overnight and she found out about her fortune in a very unusual way. for the past five months, julie has been driving around with $23 million in her glove compartment and she didn't even know it.

>> i've got, like, 200 tickets laying around.

>> she does.

>> the los angeles mother of five who lived on disability for 20 years and struggles financially pulled into this california store back in may after her daughter complained she felt car sick.

>> she's like, get me a lottery ticket . i was like no, no, no. i'm just getting water.

>> after she insisted her daughter get the ticket, she threw it in her glove compartment and forgot about it. with time rung out before the ticket expired, lottery officials published a grainy surveillance video of a woman in a blue shirt and dark pants thought to be the mystery winner.

>> oh, my god, it is me! it just clicked. i did buy a lotto ticket.

>> the two sisters called their mom and told her to watch the video.

>> and it was charlena. i thought she robbed a bank.

>> but she was about to get the shock of her life.

>> and it said she won, and i was like no way.

>> first stop, the glove box .

>> so we went back and there it was right there.

>> she says she'll opt for the lump sum of $23 million, and after treating her children and grandkids to disney land --

>> i have two special children in my life that i adopted as a widow. and a big portion is going to them. so when i'm gone, they'll be okay.

>> so what's the lesson here? sure, you can buy a ticket. sure, you might actually win. but you will never win if you don't actually check the numbers after you bought the ticket.

>> i was commenting earlier. when you find a $10 bill in an old pair of jeans. this kind of moment. times $22 million.

>> for lester, finding a ten dollar bill in his pocket is like this woman winning