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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fortune Cookies Hold Winning Combination

NEW YORK -- U.S. Powerball lottery officials suspected fraud: How could 110 players in the March 30 drawing get five of the six numbers right? That made them all second-prize winners, and considering the number of tickets sold in the 29 states where the game is played, there should have been only four or five.

But from state after state they kept coming in, the one-in-three-million combination of 22, 28, 32, 33, 39.

It took some time before they had their answer: The players got their numbers inside fortune cookies, and all the cookies came from the same factory in Long Island City, Queens.

The second-place winners were due $100,000 to $500,000 each, depending on how much they had bet, so paying all 110 meant almost $19 million in unexpected payouts. The lottery keeps a $25 million reserve for odd situations.

Of course, it could have been worse. The 110 had picked the wrong sixth number -- 40, not 42 -- and would have been first-place winners if they did.

"We didn't sleep a lot that night," said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association.

After numerous winners told lottery officials they had found the combination in a fortune cookie, investigators visited dozens of Chinese restaurants, takeouts and buffets. Then they called fortune cookie distributors and learned that many different brands of fortune cookies come from the same Long Island City factory, which is owned by Wonton Food and churns out four million cookies per day.