By EVAN SERPICK and WILLIAM FARRINGTON in Baltimore and BOB FREDERICKS in NY
Last Updated: 9:46 AM, April 2, 2012
Posted: 2:02 AM, April 2, 2012
Mega Millions mania has plunged a Maryland McDonald’s into a bubbling cauldron of controversy hotter than a deep-fried apple pie.
Workers at the fast-food joint who pooled their cash for tickets are furious at a colleague who claims she won with a ticket she bought for herself and has no intention of sharing.
“We had a group plan, but I went and played by myself. [The ‘winning’ ticket] wasn’t on the group plan,” McDonald’s “winner’’ Mirlande Wilson 37, told The Post yesterday, insisting she alone bought one of the three tickets nationwide that will split a record $656 million payout.
“I was in the group, but this was separate. The winning ticket was a separate ticket,” the single mother of seven said as she and her fiancé left her home in the squalid Westport neighborhood to attend church.
The Haitian immigrant refused to show what she said was the winning ticket, claiming she had it hidden in another location and would present it to lottery officials today.
Pressed as the day went on, she became more cagey.
“I don’t know if I won. Some of the numbers were familiar. I recognized some of [them],’’ she said. “I don’t know why’’ people are saying differently. “I’m going to go to the lottery office [today]. I bought some tickets separately.”
With winning tickets also sold in Illinois and Kansas, a single Maryland winner would get an after-tax lump sum of $105 million, or $5.59 million a year for 26 years.
If Wilson won, and if it was with a pooled work ticket, the situation would be shockingly similar to that of New Jersey lottery louse Americo Lopes, who tried to screw five former colleagues after hitting a $24 million jackpot before a jury ordered him to spread the wealth.
Wilson’s co-workers — who make little more than $7.50 an hour — are sizzling with anger over the notion.
“She can’ t do this to us!” said Suleiman Osman Husein, a shift manager and one of 15 members in the pool. “We each paid $5. She took everybody’s money!”
A man identifying himself as the boyfriend of a McDonald’s manager named Layla, who was part of the pool, said Wilson bought tickets for the group at the 7-Eleven in Milford Mill, where the winning ticket was sold.
The group’s tickets — along with a list of those who contributed to the pool — were left in an office safe at the burger joint, said the man, who gave only his first name, Allen, as he stood next to Layla. She declined to comment.
Then, late Friday, before the night’s drawing, the owner of the McDonald’s, Birul Desai, gave Wilson $5 to buy more tickets for the pool on her way home from work, and she went back to the 7-Eleven and bought them, Allen said.
Wilson took those tickets home with her, Allen said.
But Wilson insisted yesterday that she had bought the second batch with an unidentified pal — not for the pool — and that the winning ticket was among them.
A day earlier, a delirious Wilson had called co-workers to break the news — tellingly used the first-person singular.
“I won! I won!” she cried, Allen said.
Another colleague, Davon Wilson, no relation, said he was there when Mirlande Wilson called.
“She said, ‘Turn on the news.’ She said she had won. I thought it was a joke or something. She doesn’t seem like a person who’d do this,” he said.
Allan said he and Layla went to Wilson’s home and pounded on the door for 20 minutes until she finally came out.
“These people are going to kill you. It’s not worth your life!” Allen said he told her.
“All right! All right! I’ll share, but I can’t find the ticket right now,” she finally said, according to Allen.
Yohannes Michael, a clerk at the 7-Eleven where Wilson bought the tickets, expressed doubts about her story when he said yesterday that lottery officials have reviewed the store’s video and believe that a man bought the winning ticket. Lottery rep Carole Everett would not confirm that.
Reached at his Fairfax, Va., home, Desai, the McDonald’s owner, declined to comment except to say, “It’s all bulls–t, if you ask me. It’s speculation.”