Some state governments have outlawed lotteries while others condone the legalized form of gambling that widely resurfaced after World War II. The most common law from state to state regarding various forms of lottery-style gambling is the prohibition of minors purchasing scratchers and Superball tickets. The very first recorded notes on the lottery are keno slips from the Chinese Han Dynasty between 205 and 187 B.C., lotteries such as these were said to have funded major Chinese infrastructure including The Great Wall.
The first European lotteries were held by the Roman empire for amusement during dinner parties. The chances of actually winning modern lotteries are based upon the lottery itself. For the simple 6-to-49 lotto, where we choose six numbers from 1 to 49, the chances are 1 in 13,983,816. When it is a bonus ball game the chances of winning are even lower at 1 in 258,890,850.
These ridiculous odds are probably what propels those who win the lottery into inflated egos built for failure. Many who are blessed with winning millions in the lottery were penniless before their death, some became drug addicts, and others were murdered by their own family members. Winning the lottery feels like a blessing but often times lottery winners end up devastated.
15 Janite Lee
When Janite Lee won $18 million from the Illinois lottery she was working at a wig shop after immigrating from South Korea. Her first order of business after winning was to move her family into a million-dollar home in a gated community located in St. Louis. She spent a lot of her money on philanthropic contributions, dining beside Bill Clinton and Al Gore. One of her largest contributions put her name on the side of the reading room at the Washington University School of Law. After a year or so Lee signed over her rights to yearly payments and took the lump sum, it took her eight years to go completely bankrupt. Less than a decade after signing over her rights for the lump sum 60-year-old Janite Lee declared bankruptcy with a total of $700 in her bank account. The fact that she spent most of her money on philanthropic efforts makes us feel even worse for this former millionaire.
14 Amanda Clayton
Amanda Clayton won the lottery in Michigan and promptly told everyone about it, and this might have been the key to her demise. After announcing that she had won many random new ‘friends’ were lining up to take advantage of her and her new found wealth. Shortly into her time as a lottery winner Clayton was found guilty of collecting over $5000 worth of food stamps from the state of Michigan after she collected her lump sum from the lottery. She was tried and sentenced to nine months of probation and to pay back the $5500 that she wrongfully took from the state. In her time as a million dollar winner Clayton also threatened her neighbors with three hired strong arms carrying a bat and a knife. One ran away and the two that remained went to jail. In September 2011 Amanda Clayton was found dead in her house holding her 1-year-old daughter. The young woman appeared to have died from a drug overdose.
13 Timothy Elliott
It was 2008 when Timothy Elliott won $1 million prize from the Massachusetts lottery via scratchers commonly found in gas stations. After winning it was discovered that he was on probation for robbing a bank two years prior and therefore buying scratcher (ie. gambling) was against his probation. He was convicted of unarmed robbery and until the scratcher incident was a compliant probate. The court did search for any reason that the court may have to send him back to jail, but they decided that he could keep the money. He was forced to pay the $65 fee that goes to the cost of monitoring him. This fee was previously waived because Elliott had been compliant. Elliott collects $50,000 each year until he reached the total one million dollars, after taxes he receives $35,000. Timothy Elliott has schizoaffective disorder and is monitored by the Mental Department of Health.
12 Jose Antonio Cua-Toc
This is one of the strangest stories on the list, Jose Antonio Cua-Toc immigrated to America illegally from Guatemala in 2000. After purchasing the winning ticket Cua-Toc had asked Erick Cervantes to redeem the prize for him since he was illegal and couldn’t do it himself. Cervantes kept the money for himself, which prompted Cua-Toc to sue him for the amount, $750,000. Cervantes and his wife falsely reported that Cua-Toc threatened their lives and he was thrown in jail. While he was in jail facing deportation Cervantes and his wife spent over half of the lottery winnings. After viewing the solid evidence it only took the jury 30 minutes to decide that Cervantes was guilty and awarded Cua-Toc the money plus punitive damages. The fact that he had entered the country illegally never came into play proving that the United States of America is truly a one of a kind country.
11 William Post III
This tragic tale starts with William Post III winning $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988. His total winnings equated to 26 yearly payments of $497,953.47 and immediately after getting his first payment we spent $300,000 on frivolous things. In three months his debts totalled $500,000 and after his next payment he bought a mansion for $395,000 in Oil City, Pennsylvania. One year after winning half of the $32 million jackpot William Post III was estranged from his brother. The man paid a hitman to kill William Post III and his sixth wife in a scheme to collect his winnings as an inheritance. The hitman failed and Post’s brother was arrested. Eventually William Post III had incurred more than one million dollars in debt. After losing all of his money Post collected food stamps and a $450/month stipend. The elderly man died naturally of respiratory failure in 2006, he was 66 years old.
10 Callie Rogers
When Callie Rogers won the lottery in Great Britain she was only 16 years old and working for the equivalent of $5.50/hour. She won almost $3,000,000 from the National Lottery jackpot in 2003 and reported at the time that she didn’t want anything posh, just a normal car and life. Unfortunately like a true teenager who is given millions of dollars Rogers spent big. By 2011 she had undergone two breast augmentation surgeries, had two children, and attempted suicide four times. The young woman also admitted to spending about $380,000 on cocaine in the time she was rich. Now a mother of three, Callie Rogers spends her time raising her children and saving their money for birthdays and holidays. The tumultuous time after becoming a teenage millionaire is now far behind her as Rogers continues to live life as she studies to receive a degree in nursing.
9 Michael Linskey
In 1991 Michael Linskey bought a $14 million winning lottery ticket from a South Boston corner store. This store just happened to be owned by feared Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. The story goes that Bulger bullied Linskey into sharing his winnings since the winning ticket was bought at his store. Linskey took half of the winnings and the other half was split between Bulger, Kevin Weeks, and Linskey’s brother Patrick. The four men actually signed a notarized statement informing the world that they all agreed to this financial arrangement. It was proposed four years later that Bulger bought into the winnings with laundered money while the mobster was being investigated by U. S. Attorney Donald K. Stern. It can only be imagined how scary it is to be shaken down by a legendary Boston mobster, probably scary enough to forget how fun it is to have won such a huge sum of money from the lottery.
8 Jack Whittaker
Full name Andrew Jackson “Jack” Whittaker Jr., Jack won over $314 million in the 2002 Powerball Jackpot. At the time this was the largest jackpot to be won by a single ticket in American history, a feat that prompted several issues with the law and even some personal tragedy. He spent his money on multiple things including strippers and philanthropic efforts. In 2003 outside of a strip club in Cross Lanes, West Virginia Jack Whittaker’s car was robbed of over $500,000 that he kept in a suitcase at all times. Another incident at the club got two employees arrested for plotting to drug Whittaker and take his money, and in even another car robbery he lost $200,000 in cash that was later recovered. In a strange turn of events the boyfriend of his grand daughter was found dead on Whittaker’s property in the Fall of 2004. A couple of months later his granddaughter was found dead and wrapped in a tarp, he took her death very hard and received a DUI a couple of years later.
7 Evelyn Adams
This super lucky woman actually won the New Jersey lottery twice, once in 1985 and once in 1986 just four months apart from each other. Her winnings combined to total over $5 million, both prizes were paid in the form of mandatory annuities. The woman was a compulsive gambler and was also known for randomly giving away large sums of money. For this reason she ended up broke again fairly quickly after her two lucky years. Her spending sprees and heavy gambling have landed her living once again in a trailer. She revealed in an interview that after she won the lottery everyone had their hands out for charity and she couldn’t say no. Adams reports that if she could go back she would have handled her money much differently. Though she defied all odds by winning the lottery twice in less than half a year, Adams stayed with the status quo of lottery winners to spent away all of their winnings.
6 Jeffrey Dampier
Alongside is now ex-wife in 1996 Jeffrey Dampier accepted lottery winnings allotted to $20 million, after winning the couple divorced and agreed to split the money 50/50. Soon after his divorce Dampier fell in love with Crystal Jackson, the pair were married and moved to Tampa Bay, Florida. He invested in a gourmet popcorn business and also moved his two sisters-in-law into his home. The man paid for all of the bills for all three sisters and actually carried out a sexual affair with one of his sister in laws, Victoria Jackson. In 2005 Victoria lured Dampier to her home where her boyfriend Nathaniel Jackson, it is reported that Nathaniel forced Victoria to shoot Dampier in the head. It is thought that the pair killed the entrepreneur for his lottery winnings. Both of his sisters-in-law were at the scene of the crime. Victoria and Nathaniel served multiple life sentences for the murder despite claims that Dampier illegally started the relationship with Victoria when she was only 15-years-old.
5 Billie Harrell Jr.
June 1997 brought Billie Harrell Jr. $31 million in lottery winnings after struggling working multiple jobs for years supporting his wife and three children. He was given his first payment of $1.24 million and thought that he had seen the end of his financial troubles. The beginning was jovial as always, he donated tens of thousands of dollars to his church, bought cars for friends and family, and took his family to Hawaii. Strangers began calling him randomly for donations and Harrell Jr. had to go into hiding. His lavish spending alongside a bad deal made with a lump sum lottery deal left him with much less money that he had originally won. Shortly after making that bad deal Harrell. Jr. split from his wife, the final straw for the struggling Texan. In 1999 his son found him dead, he had shot himself in the head. Shortly before he committed suicide Billie Harrell Jr. told his accountant that winning the lottery was the worst thing that had ever happened to him.
4 Michael Carroll
At the ripe age of 19, Michael Carroll won the UK National Lottery after living a somewhat hard life without his father, who had spent time in jail for stabbing a couple. He told the media he didn’t plan to spend his money lavishly, just that he wanted a 3-bedroom home on a lake where he could go fishing. In 2004 the young man was pulled over and banned from driving for driving without L-plates or insurance. While drunk the next year Michael Carroll began catapulting steel balls from his Mercedes van resulting in 32 broken car windows in his hometown of Downham Market. The drama that unfolded in his life is almost unreal, five of his Rottweilers guarding his mansion were found with their throats cut and he even paid £130,000 to blackmailers who threatened his family members. Eight years after starting as a binman in 2002 when he won the lottery Michael Carroll once again applied to be a binman, proving that everything eventually comes full circle.
3 Urooj Khan
Legal Indian immigrant Urooj Khan moved to America in the ‘80s, eventually settling in Chicago. The legal immigrant opened his own dry cleaner that eventually grew to a chain of three small businesses. He was a “workaholic” that swore off of gambling after taking his Hajj, a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, in 2010. That is what makes him buying two scratchers such a random occurrence, but the $30 tickets won him a total of $424,000 (he opted for the lump sum). At the usual presser for lottery winners, Khan spoke excitedly about the investments that he would make in his dry cleaning business as well as some chances of money being donated to St. Jude’s Children’s hospital. Unfortunately after eating a traditional Indian meal of lamb curry with his wife, father-in-law, and daughter he was rushed to the hospital. The death was ruled natural until Khan’s brother petitioned the office to take a closer look. This is when cyanide was found in his system. The death goes unsolved and Khan is just another victim of the curse of being a lottery winner.
2 David Lee Edwards
When David Lee Edwards went from struggling ex-con to a lottery jackpot winner of a share totaling $27 million he was ecstatic, but his story is that shows the corruption that money can bring upon people. Then years after his big win Edwards died, alone, in hospice, penniless. The drug addict spent a third of his life behind bars before his luck seemingly changed in 2001. Edwards quickly became engaged to Shawna Maddux and the pair were married in a lavish Malibu wedding. In his time with cash Edwards and his wife brokered loans to party in Vegas where he would supply his entourage of friends with drugs. The couple purchased three homes together and would often fly between them whenever they felt the urge. The pair quickly spiraled downward and Shawna began to fall in and out of rehab before being involuntarily committed to a substance-abuse treatment program, but nothing seemed to work. She was arrested for stabbing Edwards with a crack pipe in 2004 and eventually the couple was living in squalor in their storage unit.
1 Abraham Shakespeare
This casual laborer won a $30 million jackpot in Florida, he received $17 million in 2006. Three years later Abraham Shakespeare was reported missing. His family hadn’t seen him for over six months and hoped that he was enjoying his winnings on a beach somewhere. Unfortunately, his body was discovered buried under 5’ of dirt and a newly poured concrete slab in the backyard of a home that he owned. The detectives believe that he died in early April of that same year, seven months before his body was found. Dorice Donegan “Dee Dee” Moore was the main suspect in the murder of Shakespeare, she was later convicted of murdering the 42-year-old. While he was buried in the backyard Dee Dee sent text messages to his friends and family to keep up the ruse that he was alive. Shakespeare was befriended by this con-artist and taken advantage of, a common price that lottery winners pay after going public with their big win.