Cancer Survivor Wins Half of $1.3 Billion Powerball Jackpot in Oregon

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In the heart of Salem, Oregon, an extraordinary turn of fate has taken place. Cheng “Charlie” Saephan, a 46-year-old immigrant from Laos residing in Portland, has emerged victorious, claiming a share of the staggering $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot. An ironic twist to this stunning story is Saephan’s eight-year-long battle with cancer and the chemotherapy treatment he underwent just a week ago.

During an Oregon Lottery news conference, held on Monday, Saephan, accompanied by his wife, 37-year-old Duanpen, announced they would split their winnings. Fifty percent of the profits will be kept by the couple while the rest will be given to their dear friend, Laiza Chao, who contributed $100 to their ticket expense. The triumphant group will walk away with a substantial lump sum carefully calculated at $422 million after taxes.

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Speaking at the conference, Saephan could barely conceal his joy. His newfound fortune, he said, will allow him to seek higher-quality healthcare and provide a secure future for his loved ones, a goal that had seemed beyond reach until now.

Saephan, a father of two, confessed that as a cancer patient, the thought of ‘outliving his fortune’ has crossed his mind. The couple’s friend, Chao, treated the shared ticket purchase as a casual, humorous matter, even sending a picture of the tickets to Saephan and joking about their soon-to-be billionaire status. Little did they know that their joke would turn into reality when they were announced as winners the following day.

Born in Laos, Saephan moved to Thailand in 1987 before immigrating to the United States in 1994. During the conference, he donned a sash identifying himself as a member of the Iu Mien, a Southeast Asian ethnic group rooted in Southern China. This community has a storied past, helping American forces during the Vietnam war, subsequent persecution lead to the migration of thousands of Iu Mien families to Thailand, and eventually, to the United States.

Today, the Iu Mien boasts a substantial community inhabiting the West Coast, with a particularly robust representation in Portland. Saephan has been a part of this Portland Iu Mien enclave for close to 30 years since graduating from high school, working for a stretch as a machinist for an aerospace company.

In the lead-up to the Powerball draw, Saephan confessed to having some rituals. He would write down numbers for the game on a slip of paper, and then sleep with it under his pillow, praying for a win, his heart filled with a desperateness to make his family’s life better despite his health condition.

The victorious Powerball ticket originated from a Plaid Pantry convenience store in Portland. After a lengthy stretch of three months without a jackpot, this win has certainly sparked excitement within the Oregon Lottery community. As disclosure is mandatory according to Oregon law, the winners underwent an extensive security and vetting process before the Lottery could publicize their identities.

The cash lump sum selected by the winners, amounting to $621 million before taxes, offers an immediate payout rather than an annuity spread over 30 years. Taxes charged include both federal and state levies.

This $1.3 billion prize ranks as the fourth-largest Powerball jackpot ever, securing the eighth spot among U.S. jackpot games, as reported by the Oregon Lottery. The record is held by a staggering $2.04 billion win in California back in 2022.