REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: Once-broke single mom Garina Fearon wears a $54 million smile yesterday. (Photo via The New York Post William Farrington)

Thirty-four-year-old Rikers Island guard Garina Fearon wore a US$54-million smile on Thursday.

Fearon, Jamaican-born, wrote a rags-to-riches tale when she won the equlavent of J$4.6 billion in last week’s Mega Millions lotto drawing in New York.

Fearon spent part of her youth in a homeless shelter and went on to endure sickening abuse from the monsters in her care.

“She’s had faeces thrown in her face and on her uniform in the years that she’s been there,” said a fellow jail guard. “She’s a tough young lady.”

How she won is as remarkable as her change of fortune.

Fearon said she bought the wrong ticket at a Sutter Avenue bodega, where she went to play Powerball, not Mega Millions.

“I only play every six months or so,” said Fearon, who has a 16-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter.

She held on to the ticket all weekend, and didn’t think about it until Monday, when she asked a co-worker for a newspaper. She scribbled the winning numbers on the back of an inmate pass as her shift ended.

Hard times struck again four years ago, when burglars robbed her apartment while she was at work guarding dangerous inmates. (Photo via The New York Post William Farrington)

The discovery

As she waited for the bus, she made the amazing discovery.

“I was about to fold up the lottery ticket,” Fearon said. “Then I saw the numbers, and I started running from one part of the parking lot to the other screaming.”

She still hasn’t come down from her high.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. “It’s something unexpected.”

The first thing on her “to-do” list was to talk to supervisors at the Correction Department. She said she feels too loyal to the job to let it go, even with all that money coming her way.

“I’m going to go to my job to get some days off,” Fearon said. “I don’t want to resign.”

Fearon said it was her correction career that rescued her from her financial ruin.

Her top priority is taking care of her ailing mom.

“I’m from Jamaica,” Fearon said. “I have a sick mother. She has diabetes, and I’m going to buy my mom a house in Jamaica.”

Fearon said she will take the lump-sum option, which will pay her about $30 million before taxes. Beyond that, she’s not sure what she’ll do next.

“I don’t know anything about all this kind of money,” she said.

Taken from The New York Post

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