Immigrant from Laos who has cancer wins $1.3B jackpot

Cheng "Charlie" Saephan points to his sash that reads "Iu-Mien USA" while speaking during a news conference after it was revealed that he was one of the winners of the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot at the Oregon Lottery headquarters, Monday, April 29, 2024, in Salem, Ore.
Cheng "Charlie" Saephan points to his sash that reads "Iu-Mien USA" while speaking during a news conference after it was revealed that he was one of the winners of the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot at the Oregon Lottery headquarters, Monday, April 29, 2024, in Salem, Ore.AP

SALEM, Ore. — One of the winners of a $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot this month is an immigrant from Laos who has had cancer for eight years and had his latest chemotherapy treatment last week.

Cheng “Charlie” Saephan, 46, of Portland, told a news conference held by the Oregon Lottery on Monday that he and his 37-year-old wife, Duanpen, are taking half the money, and the rest is going to a friend, Laiza Chao, 55, of the Portland suburb of Milwaukie. Chao had chipped in $100 to buy a batch of tickets with them. They are taking a lump sum payment, $422 million after taxes.

“I will be able to provide for my family and my health,” he said, adding that he’d “find a good doctor for myself.”

Saephan, who has two young children, said that as a cancer patient, he wondered, “How am I going to have time to spend all of this money? How long will I live?”

After they bought the shared tickets, Chao sent a photo of the tickets to Saephan and said, “We’re billionaires.” It was a joke before the actual drawing, he said, but the next day they won.

Chao, 55, was on her way to work when Saephan called her with the news.

“You don’t have to go anymore,” he said.

Saephan said he was born in Laos and moved to Thailand in 1987, before immigrating to the U.S. in 1994. He wore a sash at the news conference identifying himself as Iu Mien, a southeast Asian ethnic group with roots in southern China. / AP

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