February 13, 2016

9 Lottery Winners Who Lost It All

Just about everyone daydreams about what they would do if they ever won that big lotto jackpot—even people like me who rarely, if ever, buy lottery tickets. But winning the lottery doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be living on Easy Street. In fact, judging by the hardships that befell all the people on this list, it sounds like you might be better off not winning the lottery. Don’t believe me? Read the stories and judge for yourself.

9. Willie Hurt

Willie hurt was happily married with beautiful children and a strong reputation in his community when he won $3.1 million in the Michigan Lottery in 1993. By 1995 he was divorced, without custody of his kids, and completely broke. The culprit? Hurt’s addiction to crack. Total bummer.


8. Suzanne Mullins

Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million in the Virginia Lottery in 1993, which she would receive in annual payments of $144,000 for 20 years. Not bad, right? Unfortunately, by 2004 she was $154,000 in debt. According to Mullins, it was all because her uninsured son-in-laws had major medical problems and racked up $1 million in medical bills. However, poor financial management made things worse. She took out a loan in 1998 with her future lotto payments as collateral. But when a rule change in 2000 allowed lotto winners to collect their remaining money in a lump sum, Suzanne Mullins cashed out. The only thing is, for some reason, she didn’t immediately pay off the loan. And so now she owes more money than she actually has. Oops.


7. Alex and Rhonda Toth

This Florida couple won $13 million in 1990. But between 1990 and 2006, when the only electricity they had came from their car battery, they just had one problem after another. Among them were car wrecks, lousy goof-for-nothing kids with lousy good-for-nothing girlfriends, legal disputes with minor local celebrities, and, as always, tax evasion. Alex eventually passed away while awaiting trial for tax evasion, leaving his wife to deal with a two year prison sentence and $1.1 million in repayments to the IRS all by her lonesome.


6. Jay Sommers

When he was 20 years old in 1988, Jay won a 1/5 share of a $29 million lottery jackpot, or about $5.5 million. So what did he do with that first $290,000 annual payment? Buy 5 new cars of course! What he obviously didn’t realize was that, even though he’d spent all the money in 2 1/2 months, he’d still owe serious dough to the IRS come April 15. Facing huge debt, a friend of his agreed to manage his finances, advising him to cash out of the lotto payment plan in exchange for one lump sum. Unfortunately, this friend turned out to be a crappy financial adviser, and he lost all Jay’s money in bad investments and deals of questionable legality. Sommers sued the guy and won $877,000, but all that just went to paying off lawyers and other debts. Today he’s lives outside Detroit and is still trying to make it as a NASCAR driver.


5. Evelyn Adams

It’s no joke when people say you’re more likely to be killed by lightning. The odds of winning the lottery are usually somewhere around 1 in 15 million. But when New Jersey resident Evelyn Adams won the lottery in 1986, unbelievably it was the second time in two years! In all her pocketed $5.4 million. Unfortunately, Ms. Adams was a big spender and a heavy gambler. Today she’s broke and living in a trailer—though if you ask her, it’s all because she was too generous. But hey, I’m not going to judge. Why kick a gal while she’s down?


4. Denise Rossi

Denise Rossi won $1.3 million in the California Lottery in 1996. Eleven days later she sent her husband, Thomas Rossi, divorce papers. Another case of money tearing a marriage apart? Not quite. You see, her husband had no idea she’d even won the lottery. He thought everything was okay, and was completely blindsided by the divorce request. Only two years later did he discover the truth. So he took his ex-wife back to court, where the judge awarded Mr. Rossi not just part but all of the lottery winnings. What’s funny is that, had she just been honest and disclosed the lottery winnings in her divorce proceedings, Mrs. Rossi could have kept at least half or maybe even all of her winnings.


3. William Post

This guy won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988. He died in 2006 at the age of 66, completely broke. His problems started two weeks after he received the first of 26 annual payments of $498,000. In those two weeks he spent $300,000, and not just on himself. He bought one of his brothers a used car lot, and a liquor license for a restaurant owned by his other brother. But he also bought himself an airplane, despite not being a pilot. Thus, after just 3 months, William Post was $500,000 in debt, and it only got worse from there. His old landlord—and on-again, off-again girlfriend—sued him for a share of the winnings, since she had purchased the winning ticket for him. She won, and was granted 1/3 of the winnings. Then, one of those brothers hired a hit man to kill him (though, apparently, not a good hit man). Adding fuel to the flames, Post fired a shotgun at a debt collector a few years later and served time on an assault charge. And of course, making every more complicated, Post was married 7 times and had 10 kids. In 1996 he “sold” his remaining annual payments so he could secure for himself a little nest egg. He then went out and spent that remaining $2.65 million on 2 houses, 2 Harley Davidsons, 3 cars, a $260,000 sailboat, and some 62” televisions. So, by the end of his life, all he had left was his monthly $450 disability check.


2. Jeffrey Dampier

Jeffrey Dampier won $20 million in the Illinois Lotto in 1996. He and his first wife then moved with his parents to Florida. There, the entrepreneurial Dampier started a successful gourmet popcorn business that employed many of his own family members who, apparently following the gravy train, had also relocated to Florida. Unfortunately, one of those family members was his sister-in-law, Victoria Jackson. In 2005 Jackson and her boyfriend saw to it that Dampier literally “lost it all” by kidnapping and murdering him. Supposedly the two were simply after Dampier’s money; however, it may not have been quite that simple. At her murder trial, Victoria Jackson and her sister Terri claimed that Dampier had initiated a sexual relationship with his sister-in-law when he was 32 and she was only 15—and severely traumatized by having discovered her father hanging in her family’s garage just months before the alleged relationship began. Of course, if true, none of this justifies cold-blooded murder. But it does help explain it.

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1. Jack Whittaker

The #1 story lottery hardship really is sad. Jack Whittaker was already a multi-millionaire when he won a $315 million Powerball jackpot in 2002. Unfortunately for him, that was the last piece of good luck he ever got. He now claims to be completely broke—the victim of a “team of crooks” who forged and cashed checks at 12 different branches of City Naitonal Bank in 2006. But by that point, the money didn’t really matter to old Jack. He was already the plaintiff in numerous law suits, had been divorced by his wife, arrested for drunk driving, robbed of $500,000 cash in two separate incidents, and—worst of all—lost his daughter and beloved granddaughter to drug overdoses. By the time it was all said and done, Jack Whittaker told reporters, “I wish I’d torn that ticket up.” Yeah, I guess so, poor guy.

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