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December 21. 2012 9:58PM

Make no mistake, for this family, it's the winning season


Christmas came early for the Bennett family of Hillsborough who won the Tri-State Megabucks jackpot and will take home close to $1 million after taxes. (Nancy Bean Foster/Union Leader Correspondent)

HILLSBOROUGH - A store clerk's mistake - selling the wrong lottery ticket to a Hillsborough man - turned into a Christmas blessing for the man and his family.

Scott Bennett, who works in property management, stopped by the Irving Circle K convenience store on Main Street in Hillsborough Wednesday to get a drink. While he was there, he thought he'd try his luck with the New Hampshire Lottery. He asked for a ticket for another lottery game, but clerk Nikki Gee said she accidentally printed a Tri-State Megabucks ticket. Bennett, who either didn't notice or didn't mind, said Gee, took the ticket and left.

The next day, Travis Bennett, Scott's oldest son, heard that the Hillsborough convenience store had sold a winning Megabucks ticket. When Cathy Bennett found her husband Thursday morning, he was sitting on the couch, staring into space, with the Megabucks ticket in one hand, and his laptop open to the New Hampshire Lottery website in the other.

"We couldn't believe it. It didn't seem real," said Cathy during a press conference at the Circle K on Friday morning. "We must have checked the numbers 15 times."

Turns out, the ticket (Nikki Gee) sold Scott by mistake was the winner.

"He came in yesterday to thank me and said I had made a very good mistake," said Gee, 24.

The Bennetts won a jackpot of $2.1 million, which they could have taken in installments over 30 years. New Hampshire Lottery spokeswoman Maura McCann said the family opted to take a lump sum payment of $1.3 million that will come in just under $1 million in cash after taxes.

Cathy, a paraprofessional at the Hillsboro-Deering Elementary School, was on hand with her parents Wally and Sharon Houghton, daughter Danielle, 23, her sons Travis, 20, and Brett, 16, Travis' girlfriend Haley Rubin to receive the large check from the lottery. But Scott wasn't at the press conference, his wife said.

"He's at work," she said. "He's out sanding and plowing."

Cathy said the money will be used to help pay off college loans for Travis and Danielle, and for tuition for Brett when his time comes. She also said they plan to renovate the family's kitchen. And there might be a little extra something under the tree for everyone on Christmas morning, she said. But otherwise, life will go on as usual.

"We're going to keep working," she said. "We both love our jobs."

Convenience store owner John Collopy also received a check for $21,500 for selling the ticket and will be sharing some of that wealth with his employees, including Gee who sold the winning ticket by mistake.

"Those are the kinds of mistake we like to have happen here," he said.

Gee said she'll put her portion of the winnings toward some last minute Christmas gifts and the rest in the bank so she can keep saving for a new car.

nfoster@newstote.com


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