A New York woman says she's the answer to a 31-year-old record-breaking Empire State mystery.

On July 17, 1991, someone bought a Lotto ticket for $1 at Staten Island deli. That ticket ended up being worth $12 million.

$12 Million Unclaimed Lottery Ticket In New York State

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New York State lottery officials knew the winning ticket was sold at the Staten Island deli, but the owner of the $12 million winning ticket never came forward.

Lottery winners have one year to claim their prize. After no one claimed the prize, in July 1992, the $12 million was returned to the New York State lottery fund.

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The unclaimed prize holds the record for being the largest in New York's history, according to USA Today.

$12 Million Winner Comes Forward

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Janet Valenti, 77, of Staten Island has finally come forward claiming she was the winner.

Valenti says in July 1991 the winning ticket was sitting with other losing tickets. She quickly checked the numbers, but threw all of the tickets out in the trash, assuming all were losing tickets.

She then went away for the weekend with her teenage children.

When she returned she spoke with a friend who told her a $12 million winning lottery ticket was sold at a deli she often buys tickets from.

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Valenti says once she learned of the winning numbers, she knew she won because it was the numbers she always played. Numbers that have a special meaning to her.

However, while she was away from the weekend, she says her neighbor took her trash cans to the curb, for the first time ever.

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"My next-door neighbor, who has never in her life, the whole time I lived there, ever put my garbage out for collection, she did," she told the Lottery Post.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Valenti then contacted a lawyer, but she learned there was nothing she could do unless she could find the ticket. Which she never did.

"I was a wreck," Valenti said. "I was sick for a long time over it. There was nothing I could do."

She says she saved her sanity by reading about lottery-winning curses. But does admit she would have loved to have won the prize.

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"I would have liked it now," she said with a laugh. "Such is life. What are you going to do?"


It's unclear why she has come forward.

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Gallery Credit: Dave Wheeler

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