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Woman sits out office Powerball pool — and coworkers win

It’s a lottery nightmare: You decide not to kick in for the office Powerball pool — and your coworkers strike it rich.

It happened at a real estate agency in Florida. Jennifer Maldonado, who started working at the firm two weeks ago and had yet to receive a paycheck, opted out of the $20 buy-in because she was watching her money. She showed up for work Sunday to find the rest of the office screaming, hugging and crying.

They had won $1 million — about $83,000 apiece before taxes.

“I knew I was the only one who hadn’t put in the money, so I thought they were pranking me and going out of their way to make me feel something,” Maldonado told The Miami Herald. “My boss sat down and said this was real.”

But the 12 coworkers at Keller Williams Partner Realty in Plantation who won are giving her a break. They won’t say how much, but they have decided to cut Maldonado, an administrative assistant, in on the winnings.

“As a team we put together a fat pile of money,” Laurie Finkelstein Reader, head of the office real estate agents, told the Herald. “If we do the right thing and always care about other people, the right thing will happen to us.”

The office pool bought 120 tickets. They didn’t win the $338 million grand prize — that went to a convenience store owner in New Jersey — but they did match five numbers: 17, 29, 31, 52 and 53. It takes five plus the Powerball to hit the jackpot.

They almost didn’t win at all. Finkelstein Reader bought the tickets at a 7-Eleven in Pembroke Pines, and the clerk, who spoke only Spanish, thought she wanted $120 worth of tickets, 60 at $2 a pop, instead of 120 tickets.

As Finkelstein Reader explained the misunderstanding, an angry line formed behind her. One man skipped to another line and bought a bunch of tickets. Finally, Finkelstein got her second batch of 60 tickets.

The winning ticket was in that second batch.

The group, which held one of 13 tickets nationwide to win $1 million, will pick up its winnings Wednesday. And next time they get together to enter the lottery, Maldonado says she’s in.

“I didn’t realize how lucky they are,” she said.