Ever since New Hampshire launched the first state lottery in 1964, players have dreamed of winning the jackpot and changing their lives forever.
The truth is that oftentimes, these dreams of financial security, luxury holidays, and expensive treats often end in disaster with many lottery winners finding that they simply can’t cope with their sudden newfound wealth. In fact, an astonishing 70% of lottery winners go broke within seven years, plagued by begging letters from members of the public and their own family or victims of bad advice from dubious financial consultants.
This doesn’t put us off playing the lottery, though; and with prizes as big as $1.6 billion, it is hardly surprising that about half of Americans buy tickets on a regular basis, hoping that their lucky numbers will win them the big prizes. It is no wonder, therefore, that the lottery industry is now worth $70 billion a year, and with lotteries in 44 states, most Americans can access the dreams–or nightmares–of a winning ticket.
If you’re one of those who buy lottery tickets hoping that millions of dollars will just fall in your lap, then perhaps you should read the cautionary tales in the list below.
15. Marie Holmes’ Win Strained Family Relationships
Single mother Marie Holmes won $188 million in 2015 when she scooped the top prize in North Carolina’s Powerball lottery with a ticket of randomly selected numbers. At least that’s what she thought, but the truth was that the winning ticket was actually her mother’s–using numbers she had chosen which meant a lot to her. Holmes’ mother may have renounced her claim to the ticket, but the win didn’t change Holmes’ life for the better. A series of bad financial decisions have seen her winnings disappear down the drain and have left relationships with most of her family strained.
14. Curtis Sharp Went On A Spending Spree
Curtis Sharp won a $5 million lottery jackpot in 1982—more than enough back then to completely transform your life. Mr. Sharp set about transforming his life in a very extravagant way! While he spent money on his family, he spent a lot more on fast cars, big houses, and beautiful women, burning through his big win in a few years. By 2016, Sharp was living a much more restrained life as a Baptist Minister and warning future lottery winners that they should take some time to clear their heads and get used to their newfound wealth before they go on a spending spree.
13. Tonda Lynn Dickerson Suffered Crippling Tax Bills
Tonda Lynn Dickerson was a Waffle House waitress in Florida when she scooped her $10 million lottery prize in 1999. A regular customer used to buy tickets for the staff as a kind of extra tip, and one day, Dickerson’s “tip” won. Everyone was delighted. All the waitresses had agreed to share the winnings after all. Only Dickerson then decided that she was going to keep the whole $10 million. Her co-workers sued, but lost their case. It wasn’t all plain sailing for Tonda Lynn who ended up saddled with crippling tax bills after following some questionable financial advice.
12. Callie Rogers Finished Her Money On Plastic Surgery Procedures
The UK lottery has produced its fair share of horror stories too, including Callie Rogers, the youngest jackpot winner ever who was 16 when she scooped a £2 million ($2.5 million) prize in 2003. Miss Rogers spent her entire prize in just a few years, splashing out on plastic surgery procedures, parties, and even drugs. Just ten years later, she had less than £2000 in the bank and was training to become a nurse, convinced that 16 is far too young to be handed that kind of money on a plate, but happier than ever with her new more modest lifestyle.
11. Willie Hurt’s Win That Led To Girlfriend’s Murder
Willie Hurt was living in Michigan when he won the state’s $3.1 million lottery jackpot in 1989. By the time he had received two of the $156,000 annual installments, he was addicted to crack cocaine and going through a messy divorce. He and his new girlfriend went on a 48-hour drug and alcohol binge, arguing violently when they ran out of crack. When his girlfriend was found shot dead, Hurt was charged with her murder and his lawyer revealed that he was broke. Amazingly, lottery winners continue to receive their annual installments, even if they are spending the rest of their life in prison.
10. Thomas And Denise Rossi’s Manipulative Divorce
Denise Rossi won $1.3 million in the California State Lottery in December 1996; filing for divorce from her husband of 25 years just 11 days later, clearly a woman after a fresh start in life. The only problem was that she forgot to mention her newfound wealth to husband Thomas during their divorce proceedings. In fact, Mr. Rossi only found about his ex-wife’s good fortune two years later, when he took her to court and secured 20 annual installments of $66,800; the judge ruling that Mrs. Rossi’s actions were a deliberate attempt to withhold her lottery winnings from her other half.
9. Ronnie Music Jr. Invested His Earnings In Selling Crystal Meth
Georgia resident Ronnie Music Jr. decided to do something sensible with his $3 million lottery win in 2015 by investing in a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity. Unfortunately for him, that business was the selling of crystal meth, and he ended up being sentenced to 21 years in a Federal prison for his part in the distribution of the dangerous drug. The real-life Walter White bought drugs in bulk before selling it onto others for a profit, and cops found $1 million worth of crystal meth as well as guns and ammunition when they raided his flat.
8. Abraham Shakespeare Killed By Conniving Girlfriend
When he won $30 million in 2006, Abraham Shakespeare was happy to get all the advice and support he could to manage his newfound wealth, including from new friend, Dorice ‘Dee Dee’ Moore. Moore helped Shakespeare to set up a business and befriended him after his windfall, becoming a close confidant over the following few years. After extorting money from him, Dorice killed Shakespeare, hiding the body at her boyfriend’s house, all the while pretending that the lottery winner had fled the country to escape begging relatives. Moore was sentenced to life without parole for the killing.
7. Urooj Khan Poisoned By Cyanide A Few days After Winning $1 Million
Chicago resident, Urooj Khan, was delighted when his ticket won the state lottery in 2012, securing him and his family a $1 million prize. However, Khan never even got the chance to collect his winnings, as he died just a few days after the draw. Initially chalked up as natural causes, it was discovered that Khan had in fact been poisoned by cyanide, and though suspicion immediately fell upon the relatives who would inherit his $1 million ticket, no one has ever been charged with his murder. His estate was eventually settled after a bitter court battle that cost most of those involved the better part of the $1 million winnings.
6. Alex And Rhoda Toth Ended Up Filing For Bankruptcy
Married couple Alex and Rhoda Toth had just $25 in their pockets when they bought the lottery ticket that won them $13 million in 1990. At first, they said all the right things, planning to continue working and promising that the money wouldn’t change them. And to their credit, they did keep things simple. It was, however, their estranged kids that caused the problems, coming out of the woodwork to try and get their grubby paws on Mom and Dad’s money. The Toths also ended up in court, charged with filing fraudulent income returns and forcing the couple to file for bankruptcy.
5. Janite Lee Became Too Philanthropic, Ultimately Filing For Bankruptcy
The story of Janite Lee, who won $18 million in the Illinois state lottery in 1993, is a particularly tragic one. Whereas most winners blow their cash on extravagant lifestyles, Lee actually spent most of her winnings on philanthropic efforts, buying a new home for her family, making political contributions, supporting local causes and even paying for a new reading room at Washington University School of Law, which still bears her name. This overenthusiastic generosity soon burned through her winnings, and Lee was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2001, at which point she owed $2.5 million and had just $700 to her name.
4. Jane Park Developed Gambling Problems
Jane Park won $1.5 million on the Euro Millions lottery in 2013 at the age of just 17. She went on a shopping spree, buying cars, clothes, holidays, and even splashing out on a boob job. She became something of a minor celebrity in the UK, known for her extravagant lifestyle and tempestuous love life, but has also spoken about the downside of her big win–including gambling problems and brushes with the law–and was even considering suing the company which runs the lottery for failing to offer her adequate support after her big win.
3. David Lee Edwards Turned To Drugs After Failing To Cope With Newfound Wealth
In 2001, David Lee Edwards won $27 million in the Powerball draw and managed to spend an astonishing $12 million in the first year after his big win, including a Lear jet and a mansion in an exclusive Malibu gated community. Finding it difficult to cope with his newfound wealth, Edwards turned to drugs, and both he and his girlfriend contracted hepatitis after sharing needles. Their drug habit burned through the rest of his winnings, and Edwards was left broke and alone. He died at the age of just 58 in a hospice in Kentucky, 12 years after the lottery win that changed his life.
2. Michael Carroll Wasted His Money On “Call Girls”
Michael Carroll, nicknamed the “Lotto Lout” in his native UK, won $11.5 million in 2002 at the age of 19 and picked up his cheque still wearing the electronic tag used to monitor offenders. Carroll went on a drugs binge, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on gambling and prostitutes and also received death threats against him and his young daughter. His advice to lottery winners is to emigrate and to get away from family and friends who will just try to bleed you dry, although he managed to spend most of his money without any help from anyone else.
1. William Post’s Brother Hired A Hitman To Kill Him In Order To Control His Lottery Cash
After winning $16.2 million in Pennsylvania lottery in 1988, William Post’s life went from bad to worse. After blowing most of his first annual payment on dodgy business investments, he found himself $500,000 in debt. And worse was to come. His own brother was found guilty of hiring a hitman to kill Post and his sixth wife, in a bid to get his hands on what cash remained, and he found himself plagued by friends and family looking for loans and cash for their own get-rich-quick schemes. Post died in 2006 penniless and insisting that he was much happier before he won his millions.
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