BALTIMORE, Maryland - The Mega Millions mystery dragged on Thursday with no one yet coming forward for a share of a world-record $656 million jackpot, even after a Baltimore woman claimed she had a winning ticket.
Tickets with the winning combination of 2, 4, 23, 38, 46 plus Mega Ball 23 drawn Friday had been sold in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland -- meaning the total prize will be split three ways. But no winners have been confirmed.
"No one has indicated to us that they have the winning ticket," said Stephen Martino, director of the Maryland lottery, which stands ready to pay out $105,106,389.24 after taxes to whoever holds the Maryland ticket.
"Until that time we will wait... until someone walks through our door," he told reporters at Maryland lottery headquarters in a renovated mail-order catalog warehouse in an industrial suburb of Baltimore.
But they need not hurry: winners have until September 28 to come forward, and Martino strongly recommended they first sign their ticket on the back, put it in a safe, then hire a lawyer or a financial adviser "to get themselves organized for this amount of money."
Mirlande Wilson, 37, an assistant manager at a Baltimore area McDonald's fast food outlet, touched off a media frenzy at the start of the week when she told the New York Post newspaper that she had Maryland's winning ticket.
She appeared but said nothing at a press conference Wednesday alongside her lawyer Edward Smith, who added to the intrigue when he revealed that he himself had not seen his client's ticket.
Wilson, a single mother and immigrant from Haiti, had asserted that her ticket was separate from others she purchased in a pool with her work colleagues -- something they disputed.
At the busy McDonald's where she remains on the payroll, two beefy off-duty police officers blocked an AFP television crew from taking video images, and a public relations consultant declined to answer questions on the record.
But in a statement Thursday, the owner of the McDonald's franchise, Birul Desai, dismissed local media reports that the winning ticket might be hidden somewhere on his property.
"I have absolutely no evidence to support these claims," he said.
Nearby, on the other side of Liberty Road in west Baltimore, a big banner declaring "We sold a jackpot winner" hung on the front of the 7-Eleven convenience store where the lucky was sold a few hours before Friday's draw.
But inside, on the red Maryland lottery machine on the cashier's counter, a handwritten sign announced: "Lottery is Out of Order."
"It jammed. The paper jammed," a store employee told AFP, explaining how the otherwise typical 7-Eleven has, since the weekend, witnessed an upsurge in customers believing its lottery tickets might be especially lucky.
Martino said the 7-Eleven would get a $100,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket, on top of the regular commission it earned for each ticket sold.
In the Illinois town of Red Bud, the nine employees of a MotoMart store that sold that state's winning ticket accepted a $50,000 check Thursday to share between them, the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper reported.
If no one comes forward, Martino said, their winnings will be redistributed to participating Mega Million states in proportion to how many tickets each state had sold.
But he added: "I am not surprised that after four working days (since Friday's draw), we haven't heard from anyone yet."