The Sunday Telegraph

Mystery syndicate in poor US mining town strikes it lucky

- By Rozina Sabur in Washington

A POVERTY-stricken former coal mining town in western Maryland has been overrun after it emerged a small group of its residents were secretly sitting on the largest lottery win in the state’s history.

The “Power Pack”, as the mystery group from Lonaconing have styled themselves, came forward to claim a $731.1 million (£529 million) Powerball jackpot prize at the end of May.

The group has taken a lump sum cash option of $546.8 million, rather than the full amount over 30 years, which means they will receive around $367 million after taxes. It is unclear how many people are in the group.

The Power Pack told lottery officials that they “have no plans to change their lifestyles” and intend to use their winnings to take care of their families and communitie­s for “generation­s to come”.

But the town’s residents are not content to sit idly by with a group of newly made multimilli­onaires living anonymousl­y in their midst. Many have publicly demanded the winners use some of the money to help the ailing town and its residents.

People from as far away as Arkansas have also travelled to Lonaconing to plead for a slice of the prize. A woman from Georgia begged for chainsaws for her farm; another petitioned to get their driveway paved.

“Some are pretty impatient about it,” Debbie Bennett, the manager of Coney Market, the shop where the winning ticket was purchased, said.

Lonaconing’s 1,200 residents have all come under suspicion, with people looking for clues their neighbours may have come into sudden wealth.

New car purchases or home improvemen­ts are being closely scrutinise­d in a town where the poverty rate is 24 per cent – almost double the national average. The Coney Market store has also been besieged by lottery players eager to replicate the good fortune.

People from across the US have sent money in envelopes asking the shop to send lottery tickets.

An anonymous letter has also circulated in the town naming Wilbur Miller, a 76-year-old grandfathe­r of seven, and his longtime partner Nancy Winebrenne­r, as two winners. After being plagued with requests for free money, the couple hired a lawyer and denied they had become multimilli­onaires.

But locals remain undeterred. “We’ll find out who the winners are,” one told

The Washington Post, “when they quietly move away.”

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