Like the old saying goes, sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for, because you might just get it. Massive wealth is not always a good thing to have, particularly when it comes overnight, and you have no experience in handling a lot of money. This list presents some stories of people who had huge lottery wins – and were worse off because of it.
10. Willie Hurt – $3.1 million
Willie Hurt won $3.1 million in the 1989 Michigan Lottery. Within two years, this former family man found his life in shambles. He divorced his wife, lost custody of his kids, and spent his remaining money on crack cocaine. An attempted murder charge tops off Hurt�s world of lotto-induced pain.
9. Suzanne Mullins – $4.2 million
In 1993, Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million in the Virginia lottery. Now she�s deeply in debt to a company that lent her money using the winnings as collateral. She borrowed $197,746.15 from this company, but eventually stopped making payments on the loan. She blamed the debt on the lengthy illness of her uninsured son-in-law, who needed $1 million for medical bills. Needless to say, her lottery win did not end in happiness.
8. Evelyn Marie Adams – $5.4 million
Evelyn Marie Adams hit the jackpot not once, but twice, buying both winning tickets at the 7-11 store her husband owned in New Jersey, a total winning of $5.4 million in 1985 and 1986. At the time Adams won, she was required to take winnings as an annuity paid out over 20 years. While the winnings were taxed at 50 percent, the government initially took only 20 percent, surprising her later with a tax bill for the remaining 30%.
Like many lottery winners, Adams had to sell off her annuity to pay her taxes and her debts. She spent some money on travel, visiting South America, Hawaii and Disney World, and ignored the seven marriage proposals she got. But she did follow some bad advice; she was told to become a professional gambler so she could use her gambling losses to offset her winnings at tax time.
Adams says she spent so much money gambling that she actually lost more than she won. Today, Adams lives in a trailer park and works in an upscale food services company. She does still play the lottery, but only in affordable amounts now and then.
7. William �Bud� Post III – $16.2 million
Do you ever, in your wildest dreams, think you may end up bankrupt after winning a $16.2 million lottery jackpot? It does happen and it happened to William “Bud” Post. Post won the jackpot in 1988 and that’s when his troubles began. Consider the following problems that he had:
- Within 3 months of his first annuity payment, he was half a million dollars in debt after purchasing such things as an airplane, a restaurant, and a used car lot
- His brother hired a contract killer to try to kill him
- A court order was given to stay away from his 6th wife after he fired a gunshot at her car
- His former landlady sued him for a portion of his winnings
- He auctioned off the last 17 annuity payments because he was in debt
- Served time in prison for assault
- Went bankrupt and lived the rest of his life on a $450/month disability check
- Died of respiratory heart failure.
Does this sound like the life of a lottery winner? It just goes to show that money doesn’t always bring happiness. He now relies on Social Security for income.
6. Janite Lee – $18 million
Janite Lee, a 52-year old St. Louis wig shop owner, won $18 million in 1993, and immediately started spending. Besides the usual million-dollar house and cars, Lee reportedly donated more than $1 million to Washington University, where her namesake reading room commemorates the occasion. She reportedly donated $277,000 to Democratic political candidates, earning herself meals with Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and even the President of South Korea.
She didn�t stop there. $30,000 went to the family of a South Korean church pastor who passed away. The St. Louis Korean American Association received a house from her. Another Korean adoption-related association also benefited. Lee�s philanthropy was expensive, but combined with her gambling habit it was fatal. In one year alone, she reportedly lost $347,000 through bad loans credit card debt. The former multi-millionaire filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2001
5. Jeffrey Dampier – $20 million
Jeffrey Dampier won a $20 million jackpot and was then kidnapped and murdered by his own sister-in-law who hoped to inherit the winnings. Victoria Jackson and Nathaniel Jackson faced charges of first-degree murder, armed kidnapping and armed carjacking. Authorities say they invited Dampier to their apartment July 25, 2005, then tied his wrists together and ordered him into his van at gunpoint. Victoria Jackson killed Dampier with a shot to the head, according to records.
4. Kenneth and Connie Parker – $25 million
Kenneth Parker was 61-years-old when he married Connie in 1987. That was his second marriage. Having gone through a marriage already, he insisted on a prenuptial agreement because he was wealthier than Connie. The prenup stated that any money or property in each other’s name, either before or after the marriage, belonged to that person. That sounded like a smart agreement for Kenneth. After all, he gets to keep his wealth in the event that the marriage ends. Smart, unless Connie wins the lottery, of course!
Connie Parker won $25 million from New York Lottery in February of 2003. At that time, the couple had been married for 16 years. Kenneth was 77 and Connie was 74. Kenneth wanted half the money but, damn, there was that pesky prenuptial agreement that stated otherwise.
Kenneth then proceeded to empty their safety deposit box, take Connie’s bankbook, passport, and birth certificate. Then he filed for divorce and asked for half the money. He claimed that the prenuptial agreement didn’t include lottery and gambling winnings. He also said that it was he who gave Connie $20 to buy the tickets. Ain’t love grand.
3. Billie Bob Harrell – $31 million
In 1997, Billie Bob Harrell was the sole winner of a of $31 million Lotto Texas jackpot; the deeply religious man considered this event to be a gift from God. He was working as stock boy at Home Depot at the time, and thought that his family’s hard times were history when he arrived in Austin about a month later, with an entourage that included his family, his minister and his attorneys, to collect the first of 25 annual checks for $1.24 million.
And life was great, at least for a while. Harrell purchased a ranch. He bought a half-dozen homes for himself and other family members. He, his wife and all the kids got new automobiles. He made large contributions to his church. If members of the congregation needed help, Billie Bob was there with cash.
But everyone, it seemed — family, friends, fellow worshipers and strangers — was putting the touch on him. His spending and his lending spiraled out of control. On May 22, 1999, 20 months after his lottery win, he committed suicide. Shortly before his death, Harrell confided to a financial adviser: “Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me”.
2. The Entire Town of Roby, TX – $46 million
The day before Thanksgiving, 1996, a group of 43 farmers from Roby, TX pooled their money to buy 430 lottery tickets. The next day, they won a $46 million prize. Roby, a town of only 600 inhabitants, was suddenly full of millionaires. In an ideal world, those winning would have saved Roby, a floundering cotton farming town facing severe drought. But that didn�t happen.
Many winners used their share of the jackpot for practical uses, like starting college funds, paying off loans, or buying new pickup trucks, according to the September 2004 issue of Texas Monthly. Though �the town�s farmers could finally breathe a sigh of relief,� few prospered from their winnings. Most winners cut deals with lottery buyout brokers, who gave them cash upfront in exchange for future annual payments. In the end, she says, that left them with roughly 1/3 of their original winnings. Bad business ventures and a plague of untimely bad luck didn�t help.
Years later, Roby remains a dying town. �For all the trouble the lottery brought on me, I don�t know whether to be happy I won or sorry I didn�t,� said Lance Green, the town�s mayor at the time.
1. Jack Whittaker – $315 million
Jack Whittaker, the 55-year-old president of a successful contracting company in West Virginia, was already rich when he won a $315 million Powerball jackpot. At the time, it was the biggest amount ever won by a single ticket.
Whittaker, who had a net worth of $17 million, received a $114 million check after taxes. He gave money to Christian charities and a personal foundation supporting low-income families. Whittaker did some good, but his bad deeds make his story. He was arrested twice, once for drunk driving and once for threatening a bar manager followed. A woman sued him after he groped her at a dog racetrack. Thieves took $545,000 in cash from Whittaker�s car while he was visiting a strip club (yes, all the obvious questions come up at this point). About a year later, thieves again stole $200,000 from his car. Caesars Atlantic City sued him for bouncing $1.5 million in checks. His wife divorced him.
Then, there were the dead bodies. In 2003, Whittaker�s granddaughter�s boyfriend was found dead of an overdose inside Whittaker�s home. His 17-year-old granddaughter, whom he had been giving a $2,100 weekly allowance, fatally overdosed months later, at a different location. His daughter, the mother of his dead granddaughter, later was found dead under suspicious circumstances.
In this messiest of lotto stories, nobody seems to have won.