The odds may be one in a gazillion, but we all dream of it. Just the thought of instant cash in your hands out of nothing would conjure images of grand vacations, luxury mansions, sports cars, designer wardrobe and state-of-the-art appliances and gadgets. And after that, you would start dreaming of more vacations, mansions, sports cars, wardrobe, appliances and gadgets. Lottery prizes are that huge. You can dream twice over and you probably would still have some money left over.
Here are the top ten biggest lottery winners.
1. Mega Millions $656 million
The mega-million lottery jackpot in March 2012 featured the biggest lottery prize ever offered in the United States. The jackpot went up to $656 million. Three tickets shared the winning numbers, meaning each would win $218.6 million. The first one was from Kansas, but he decided to remain anonymous. Three teachers from Milford Mill in Maryland shared the second ticket, though they refused to identify themselves other than by their moniker of The Three Amigos.
Merle and Patricia Butler of Red Bud in Illinois held the third ticket. They were the only winners to come out in the open. The couple decided to take the one-time lump sum of $157 million, instead of getting the whole amount but spread over several years. They said they would seek the help of financial planners and lawyers on how best to spend the money.
2. Powerball $587.5 million
The initial estimate for the November 2012 powerball was for a grand prize of $325 million only. Sales were high on that week, however, with a lot of people getting excited as 16 weeks went by without anyone hitting the jackpot. By the time the numbers were drawn, the jackpot had reached $587.5 million.
There were two winners in the draw. The Hill family from Dearborn, Missouri claimed half the prize with their adopted Chinese daughter in tow. First order of business for the family was for their daughter to get a pony. They also plan to travel the world over and to adopt another child.
The second winner came from Arizona.
3. Mega Millions $400 million
In March of 2007, the mega-million jackpot went up to $390 million. There were two winners in this draw. A couple from Woodbine, New Jersey named Harold and Elaine Messner won, and so did a 52-year old truck driver from Dalton, Georgia called Eddie Nabors. Nabors plan to secure houses for his family by paying off their mortgages and buying a home for a daughter who lived in a mobile home. He also plans to buy some equipment for his favorite hobby – fishing.
4. Mega Millions $380 million
Two tickets shared the winning numbers of this lottery. The first was purchased by the couple Jim and Carolyn McCullar. The couple hails from Ephrata in Washington and they were the lucky winners of the $380 million mega-millions jackpot in January 2011. They are as down-to-earth as they could come…the McCullars plan to use the money to secure the future of their kids, and also to donate to charity. They eschewed plans to travel all over the world, instead insisting that what is more important is that their legacy would be able to travel through generations by helping others in need.
The second was won by Holly Lahti of Rathdrum in Idaho, who immediately went into hiding after claiming the prize. Reporters later found out that Lahti has an estranged husband, but they have not filed for divorce. That gives the husband a potential claim to half of Holly’s prize.
5. Powerball $365 million
Eight co-workers from a ConAgra meatpacking plant in Nebraska shared the February 2006 jackpot of $365 million. This was the largest winning ever by a single ticket. Three of the eight workers were immigrants, two from Vietnam and one from Congo. Five of them were so shocked by their winning of the jackpot that they still went straight to work after finding out they had become millionaires.
6. The Big Game $363 million
Before Mega Millions, there was The Big Game. The biggest jackpot prize of this lottery was given out in May 2000 with the amount reaching $363 million. Two tickets shared the same numbers that turned out to be the winning combination. Nancy Ross of Shelby Township in Michigan won half the prize. The other half went to Joe and Sue Kainz of Tower Lakes in Illinois. They plan to use the money to wipe out their debts and to fix their roof.
7. Powerball $340 million
The October 2005 draw of Powerball yielded a jackpot prize of $340 million. The prize was shared by Robert and Frances Chaney of Jacksonville in Oregon, and Steve and Carolyn West of Medford, also in Oregon. The Wests immediately set out to live a more luxurious life, buying a mansion measuring 6,400 square feet over six acres of land, with pool, a 30-foot slide, and a hot tub.
8. Powerball $337 million
Donald Lawson, a railroad engineer from Michigan, won this jackpot in August 2012. He told everyone in his immediate family to retire, and he plans to travel around the world with his winnings. He has also set up a college fund for his kids.
9. Powerball $336.4 million
Louise White of Newport in Rhode Island won the jackpot of the February 2012 lottery. After learning that she had won, she immediately put the winning ticket in a safety deposit box, consulted with lawyers, and set up a trust fund called the Rainbow Sherbet Trust, which was named after the ice cream she was easting when she bought the winning ticket. The prize money was placed in the trust fund, with the proceeds going to her family.
10. Mega Millions $336 million
There were two winners from opposite side of the mainland for this August 2009 draw. Kevyn Ogawa of San Gabriel in California and Jimmy Groves of New York City shared the jackpot. Groves, however, has complained about the number of friends who suddenly turned up after he won. He said the jackpot has made his life a living hell.