Lubbock-area construction worker wins record $177M in Arkansas lottery

Eliberto Cantu and his wife Anna, record-breaking winners in the Arkansas lottery (Arkansas.gov Photo)
Eliberto Cantu and his wife Anna, record-breaking winners in the Arkansas lottery (Arkansas.gov Photo)

LUBBOCK, Texas (KLBK) — A couple from Abernathy, Texas won a $177 million jackpot in Arkansas in the March 31 Mega Millions drawing.

Eliberto and Anita Cantu claimed the prize Monday during a press conference in Arkansas.

They chose to take the prize as a lump sum so the amount was $72,901,274. The State of Arkansas said it took $7,504,543 in taxes.

Their son, Rodrigo Cantu, spoke on their behalf. He said the couple’s hometown is Abernathy while a lottery official described them as being from Lubbock.

Either way, the younger Cantu said his mom and dad plan to use the money to build two new churches – one in Abernathy and one in Post.

Rodrigo said his dad was in Arkansas as part of a five-week construction job. “He buys tickets quite a bit, and that morning he stopped at a Valero,” Rodrigo said. “His coworkers didn’t want to stop, but he convinced them to stop so he could get a lottery ticket and coffee.”

Technically the Cantus were winners twice over in that drawing. “They also won three dollars as well,” Rodrigo said.

Rodrigo said his mom and dad are 71 and 68 years old, respectively. “He’s been playing since Texas started their lottery so he’s been playing for quite a while. He did buy 180 tickets one time and got no money out of it,” Rodrigo said.

He said his dad tried to check the ticket the next morning after the drawing, and couldn’t do it at the gas station. He didn’t know why.

He called his son with the numbers and then he also took a printout of the winning numbers.  Rodrigo said, “I saw that they completely matched.”

When they called to tell his mother, she said “You’re crazy!” Rodrigo said she was more interested in movies for $1.25 at a flea market.

Officials on Monday said it was the largest winning lottery ticket in Arkansas history.

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