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Upstate Mega Millions Winners Thank Fate, Snickers For Good Fortune

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Mega Millions lottery winners pose with $319 million checks during a news conference in Schenectady, N.Y., Thursday, March 31, 2011. From left are Leon Peck, Kristin Baldwin, Mike Barth, Tracy Sussman, John Kutey, Gabrielle Mahar ad John Hilton. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Mega Millions lottery winners pose with $319 million checks during a news conference in Schenectady, N.Y., Thursday, March 31, 2011. From left are Leon Peck, Kristin Baldwin, Mike Barth, Tracy Sussman, John Kutey, Gabrielle Mahar ad John Hilton. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

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SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The seven state workers who purchased the winning ticket in last week’s $319 million Mega Millions jackpot have two things to thank for their win: fate and Snickers.

The “Albany Seven” made their first public appearance in Schenectady Thursday. They are Mike Barth, 63, of Albany, Kristin Baldwin, 42, of Clifton Park, Leon Peck, 62, of Johnstown, Tracy Sussman, 41, of Colonie, John Kutey, 54, of Green Island, Gabrielle Mahar, 29, of Colonie and John Hilton, 57, of North Greenbush.

The four men and three women are information technology workers at the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reports: A Simple Twist Of Fate

Barth, who bought the winning ticket at a newsstand in downtown Albany last Friday, said the group’s fortune was sealed by the “fickle finger of fate.”

“I was at the counter. It was my turn to buy a ticket when I reached down to grab a Snickers bar from the candy display and someone reached over me, actually cut in front of me to buy a ticket,” he said. “I thought about saying something but decided to just let it slide. I bought the next ticket — the winning ticket.”

The winners tried to keep the news quiet while consulting with professional financial advisers. During that time, John Hilton kept the winning ticket hidden for safety.

“I put it in two it in Ziploc bags, put it in a five gallon bucket of bird food I had in the garage and hid it in my basement. I didn’t know what to do with it,” Hilton said.

Mahar said she was dumbfounded when she saw the numbers come up on the nightly news.

“I wrote them down and then I looked at my photocopy, I checked the ticket and I rechecked it and rechecked it and rechecked it,” Mahar said. “I just couldn’t believe it was real.”

Word spread quickly among the group. Peck figured his phone ringing after hours meant there was an equipment malfunction at work.

Sussman thought the same thing after getting the call early Saturday morning call from a co-worker. “I got on the phone and said, ‘What’s wrong now?'”

They’re each collecting checks for $19.1 million after taxes.

The new millionaires have many plans for the money.

Mahar plans to buy a new dishwasher, Barth is looking at a new set of tires and a college education for his son. Hilton said he wants to fly like a star – in first class, and Kutey just wants to go to every Disney Park with his wife.

At their official introduction, the group feasted on a large cake that resembled the winning ticket and, of course, Snickers bars.

It turns out the group has been running an office pool annd playing big jackpots over 100 million for a couple years now.

“Usually, we all throw in two bucks each drawing,” Hilton said.

The seven winners could have reportedly been eight. A co-worker had apparently decided to opt out of the pool on Friday saying that  he didn’t feel lucky.

The jackpot was the fifth-largest in the multi-state game’s history.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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