SAN JOSE -- Two weeks of suspense over who won a $324 million lottery prize ended Friday with the announcement that a delivery driver who bought the winning ticket at an East San Jose gift shop finally stepped forward to claim his winnings.
But who is Steve Tran from "Northern California?"
The state's newest multimillionaire slipped into the lottery's Sacramento headquarters the day after New Year's -- and just three days after he realized he had the ticket -- to claim $173.8 million, before taxes.
Tran declined to participate in the traditional news conference for winners, instead providing only a few comments and details to lottery officials to release Friday.
Tran said he is -- or was -- a delivery driver who loves to visit San Jose with his family and bought tickets throughout his route.
Among the nuggets revealed: Tran told lottery officials that after learning he had the winning Mega Millions ticket, he made a call to his boss.
"I'm really sorry, boss. I hit the jackpot," he said. "I don't think I'm going to come in today, tomorrow, or ever."
The winning numbers were drawn Dec. 17. When days passed and no one came forward, the news cameras went into hibernation on the story. Some thought the winner might have been waiting out the holidays or lining up a cadre of lawyers ready to march in with him as he claimed the fortune.
It appears the nail-biting delay has a much simpler answer: Tran didn't even know he was the winner until this week.
On the day after the winning numbers were drawn, Tran said he watched the story in the news with as much wonder about the winner as millions of other Californians.
"Everybody was anxious, looking for the person," Tran told the California Lottery. "Must be a lucky man."
Then he took his family on vacation. The entire time, he had a pile of lottery tickets he had bought in multiple towns while making delivery runs.
"Just sitting in my house, on top of my drawer," Tran said.
They returned from the trip, and about 3 a.m. Monday, an electrifying thought raced through his mind and startled him out of slumber.
"I woke up in the middle of the night," Tran told lottery officials. "I remembered, I think I went to San Jose."
Tran checked his tickets and made the $324 million discovery. Then he made his phone call to his boss.
According to the agency, Tran has chosen to take his winnings in one $173.8 million lump sum and will clear about $130.3 million after federal taxes. He is one of two winners in the nationwide $648 million drawing -- the second-largest jackpot in U.S. history. The other newly minted multimillionaire, Ira Curry, of Georgia, claimed her winnings and immediately dropped out of sight. She also took her bonanza as a lump sum -- $123 million after taxes.
Tran says he and his family visit San Jose because of its large Vietnamese community and the shopping and restaurants. Tran said he bought five quick-pick tickets at Jenny's Gift & Kids Wear, a store tucked away in a Tully Road strip mall.
But there is no word on what he plans to do with the money other than take a vacation.
The California Lottery discloses only the winner's name, where the ticket was purchased and the amount of the prize, spokesman Alex Traverso said.
Friday morning, the man who sold the winning ticket in San Jose was busier than ever. Thuy Nguyen, the gift shop owner who received $1 million for selling the ticket, said Tran made deliveries at the strip mall and was an occasional customer at his store.
"I'm proud for him. I'm happy for him," Nguyen said.
In being a source of the winner's good fortune, Nguyen said he saw it as a contribution to the community.
"That must have been the reason I'm here," he said.
Nguyen's lottery sales have jumped about 30 percent since he sold the winning Mega Millions ticket. Droves of ticket buyers poured into his shop Friday morning; at one point he doled out tickets without interruption for 20 minutes..
After each sale, he gave customers a hopeful send-off: "I wish you the best."
Staff writer Tracey Kaplan contributed to this report. Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga. Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him at Twitter.com/MarkMGomez.