Winning the lottery is a dream many people can only “aspire” to. Those who play the lottery on a regular basis likely do it out of superstition, or simply want to lend their funds to the local educational system. Either way, the slight possibility of a big payday is likely looming in the back of their minds when they buy a lottery ticket at the nearest gas station or grocery store.
Some people think about what they would do if they win the lottery. Buying extravagant items like large screen televisions and sports cars often comes to mind. Of course, some hope to become lotto winners in order to take care of more practical matters like paying off their homes or sending their kids to college. Whatever people’s lottery goals are, it’s no secret that coming into a large sum of money without having to work for it can be completely life-changing.
Unfortunately, some people’s lives change for the worse after they win the lottery. A major life change like this is supposed to be an extremely positive thing, but there’s also a huge possibility that things could go wrong when such a large sum of money is involved. With that said, here are 12 lottery winners you can’t help but feel sorry for.
12 Suzanne Mullins
In 1993, Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million when she played the Virginia Lottery. Unfortunately, Mullins ended up getting into some serious debt. She signed a contract with a company who lent her money and used her lottery winnings as collateral. Suzanne borrowed $197,746.15, and she agreed to pay the money back with the annual checks she was getting through the Virginia Lottery. The debt was to be paid off in 2006. Then the rules of the lottery changed, and Mullins was allowed access to her winnings in a lump sum. She cashed out the remaining amount of her $4.2 million, but stopped making loan payments. Things could only go downhill financially from there.
11 Rhoda and Alex Toth
Rhoda and Alex Toth were Florida Lottery winners in 1990. The couple won $13 million, but by 2005 they were in dire straits financially. The Toths were also in legal trouble. You may be wondering how this is even possible when they’d literally won millions of dollars. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Toths declared bankruptcy, and the IRS accused the couple of tax evasion. Looks like they tried to “beat the system,” even though they won lots of money just by playing the lottery. The case went to trial, but Alex passed away before this happened. Rhoda went to prison for two years for the tax evasion.
10 Americo Lopes
In New Jersey, construction worker Americo Lopes was excited to know he’d won the lottery. He’d pooled his money with some of his coworkers, and agreed that he would split the winnings if he ever happened to win. Lopes went back on his word, and tried to keep his lottery victory a secret from his friends. Americo’s coworkers eventually found out that he’d won the lottery and didn’t want to share the money, so they took him to court and won the case. Lopes likely had to use most of his winnings for legal fees, which just goes to show that it doesn’t pay to lie.
9 Tonda Lynn Dickerson
Tonda Lynn Dickerson had the good fortune of winning $10 million. A customer who often visited the restaurant where she worked gave her the winning lottery ticket. Ms. Dickerson agreed that she would share her winnings with the customer if she won the lottery. However, when it was confirmed that she was the winner, Dickerson “changed her mind.” However, she was legally required to pay $1,119,347.90 in taxes, in addition to the taxes that were already subtracted from her winnings. This is yet another reminder that it’s never a good idea to be a greedy liar, even when millions of dollars are at stake.
8 Evelyn Adams
Evelyn Adams had the rare distinction of winning the lottery twice. She won first in 1985, then again the following year. Adams is a native of New Jersey and spent a little time in Atlantic City gambling after receiving her winnings. Unfortunately, she blew $5.5 million during her time in Atlantic City. Obviously, she just didn’t want to be a millionaire. Most people would have stopped after at least the first $500 was lost. Maybe Evelyn didn’t have a real sense of how much money she’d won—and how much she was losing. Perhaps the large sum of cash clouded her judgment and made her think her luck would turn around at the casino. Either way, Atlantic City made over $5 million during Adams' trip.
7 Lisa Arcand
Lisa Arcand won $1 million after playing the lottery. Like most lottery winners, she thought this was literally a dream come true. Arcand bought new furniture—and a new home to house all the décor. She also enrolled her son in private school and opened her own restaurant. She had to close the restaurant less than four years later, because it was too expensive to maintain. Arcand also went bankrupt, which was mainly due to the money that went into trying to have a successful eatery. Maybe some professional financial advice would have helped to change the course of Lisa Arcand’s life for the better.
6 Barry Shell
The irony of this situation is that Barry Shell used one of the very last dollars he had to win a lottery ticket in Ontario. He ended up winning $4 million as a result of that risky decision in 2009. Unfortunately, there was also a warrant out for Shell’s arrest. He was charged with possession of stolen property and theft. The police were able to find him because they saw a photo of him holding the check indicating his winnings. Barry Shell had to go to jail, and he gave his lottery winnings to a relative. So actually, a family member of Barry Shell’s won the lottery.
5 Luke Pittard
After playing the UK Lottery, Luke Pittard won 1.3 million British pounds, or $1.8 million U.S. dollars. This happened in 2006, and about 18 months later, Pittard was working at McDonald’s to make ends meet. Apparently, he spent the majority of his lottery winnings on a lavish vacation to the Canary Islands. He also bought a lot of booze. To be fair, Pittard had a wedding and bought a house with his winnings as well. However, the wedding didn’t have to be as flashy. He clearly should have saved some of his money for his actual marriage. Clearly, this wasn’t the life his spouse signed up for.
4 Martyn and Kay Tott
Martyn and his wife Kay, missed the chance to claim their $5 million in lottery winnings after they lost their ticket. The couple was able to convince lottery officials that they were the rightful owners of the winning ticket. However, there is a 30-day window for reporting tickets that are lost, and the Totts missed the window. Their unclaimed monies became the biggest jackpot that didn’t actually to go the winner since the start of the lottery in 1994. We’re guessing that sick feeling they got in the pit of their stomachs when they found out they weren’t getting their money has never gone away.
3 Callie Rogers
When Callie Rogers became the winner of the UK Lottery, she was just 16 years old. She won 1.9 million pounds, which is about $3 million in American dollars. This major life change occurred in 2003, and Rogers went on to have two children, which shouldn’t have been a problem, since she had the money to care for them. However, Callie spent the majority of her money on partying, buying gifts for her friends and going on vacation. Before she even realized that she was blowing all her money, she was completely out of cash. She also states that she’s happier now than she was when she had millions of dollars. We’re guessing that the voice of wisdom speaking—or the voice that people use when they’re making the best of things.
2 Denise Rossi
Denise Rossi played the lottery in California, and ended up winning $1.3 million. After she won, she left her husband—without telling him that she was now a millionaire. She went on to start a new life, and her husband didn’t put up a fight when she decided that she no longer wanted to be in the marriage. Two years later, however, he sued Denise for not telling him about the lottery winnings in the divorce. As a result, the judge who was handling the Rossi divorce case awarded Mr. Rossi all of Denise’s lottery winnings. That’s got to hurt. Honesty is always the best policy—especially when it comes to lottery winnings and divorces.
1 Willie Hurt
Willie Hurt's story is a cautionary tale that should serve as a warning to anyone who comes into a lot of money. In 1989, Hurt won the lottery in Michigan to the tune of $3.1 million. A few years later, however, he got a divorce, and those are usually financially taxing. Willie Hurt also lost custody of his children, and was later charged with attempted murder. This is just proof that money doesn’t actually solve every problem. Hurt also developed a cocaine habit, which consumed the remainder of his fortune. Maybe if he’d found other ways to deal with the negative changes in his life, he’d still be a millionaire.