When Bob Pagano, an unemployed truck driver from Colorado, came forward with what he claimed was the winning ticket in the $365 million
Powerball Lottery drawing, it looked like fate had finally smiled on one member
of the trucking industry.
Except there were a few problems.
Pagano claimed he’d picked his winning numbers, while
officials with Powerball said the winning ticket’s numbers had been
computer-selected. Pagano also showed a photocopy of the ticket to the press
with a purchase date of Sunday, Feb. 17 printed on it. However, Sunday fell on
Feb. 19, and the drawing was on Saturday, Feb. 18.
Oh, and there were a few other small problems – Pagano
wasn’t a real person, he wasn’t from Colorado, and he was never a trucker.
In reality, Bob Pagano’s real name is Bob Pagani, a former
radio DJ and book editor form Pacific City, OR. Pagani got involved with the
elaborate hoax – in which he bought dinner for a diner full of people in Lincoln, NE, after claiming to have the winning ticket – through one of his cohorts, Alan
Abel, a man well-known for staging high-profile practical jokes, according to
Pagani’s trick made the media swarm. He was interviewed on
several major networks and programs, including ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
As the dust settles on the largest Powerball drawing in
history, the public has learned that eight employees at a meat-packing plant in
Lincoln, NE, split the prize for an estimated $15.5 million each, after
taxes. But for a short period of time, both the public and the news media were
fooled by a prankster named Pagano.
Even though the prank frustrated many, Pagani said it did
bring a little bit of joy to those around him when he spent $2,000 buying lunch
for everyone in the crowded restaurant.
“We spent a lot of money buying people’s lunches. They had a
thrill … nobody got hurt,” Pagani told the Omaha World-Herald. “It’s
kind of like a magic trick – a magician lies to you.”
And while Pagani’s victory was just a hoax, the lottery has
been favorable to truckers in the past. In 1997, Charlie Jasmer, a trucker from
Minnesota, claimed a $5 million Powerball prize. According to the Minneapolis
Star-Tribune, he quit his job the very next day – but has since gone back
to work as the owner of his own construction company.
“You can’t just stop and spend your time in a bar 24 hours a
day,” Jasmer said.