Lottery winners who did it right or lottery winners who have gone broke? Which one would you be? Most people dream of becoming overnight millionaires or at least be debt free, their entire lives. Winning the lottery brings a lot of excitement that we naturally want to share with our loved ones. As exciting as winning the lottery might be, rule number one seems to be “Do not go public”, this is the message most winners seem to agree on. Whether you choose to play the lottery online or buy yourself a ticket, remember playing is easier than winning.
We have seen some amazing lottery winning stories over the years. Stories of genuine happy tears, smiling hopeful faces, faithfully looking towards the future, so all those prize-winners who did it right, but we have also seen the lottery winners who lost it all. There seem to be two type of lottery winners. Those who invest for the future and grow their newly-acquired wealth and then there are those whose lives are ruined by winning the lottery.
Statistics show that over 70% of lottery winners go broke in 3 to 5 years which is insane and I’m sure you all must be wondering how that can happen. Here we’ve gathered the 25 most impressive stories of lottery winners gone broke.
1. Evelyn Adams – Won the Jackpot Twice
Her story is that much more impressive, as she won the 7-figure jackpot twice! Winning a total of $5.4 million in two years made her the first person to win the New Jersey lottery twice. With 1 in 5.2 million odds of winning the first time but 17 trillion to one odds for the second win, we can say Evelyn was one lucky lady.
After setting up a college fund for her daughter, Evelyn gave a lot of expensive gifts to friends and family and then pretty much gambled her money away in Atlantic City. By 2012 she was living in a trailer park and working two jobs.
2. Sharon Tirabassi – the Big Spender
Sharon won $10.5 million back in 2004 and lost it all by 2008. She was quite a big spender. Sharon bought a house for half a million $, had the wedding of her dreams, and treated her friends to lush holidays.
Designer clothing and extravagant cars were also on the list. She made the smart decision of transferring some of her winnings into trust funds for her kids, so that is something they can look forward to. Now Sharon has gone back to work to support herself and her 6 kids.
3. Americo Lopes – Took His Promise Back
Americo thought the sun would shine on his street as well when he played Mega Millions and won a $38.5 million jackpot, but turned out to be another lottery winner to lost it all. He was saving money together with his co-workers to buy lottery tickets. He bought the winning ticket as a representative of the group so in case he won he was supposed to share the prize with the group.
When he saw he had a winning ticket he changed his mind and decided to not tell anyone about the jackpot winning. He quit his job and pretended to take medical leave. As secrets don’t stay secrets for too long, his co-workers found out and sued him. Eventually, the judge ordered Americo to split his prize with them.
4. Callie Rogers – The Teen Lottery Winner
The teen lottery-winner has now left a little over 2K in the bank out of the £1.9 million she won back in 2003. Callie did some good investments buying property for her mother, but the rest of the money went on cosmetic surgery, expensive holidays and designer clothing.
That is not all of it though, as she is rumoured to have spent £300.000 on cocaine. She now says she has never been happier and that 16-year olds should not be eligible to play the lottery.
5. William Bud Post – Millionaire to Food Stamps
He played the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 and won $16.2 million. He chose the annual payments of $497,953.47 over 26 years. In the first two weeks of cashing in his first payment, he had spent over $300,000 and was $500,000 in debt within the next three months.
He had several misfortunes as his brother organised a murder attempt on Post and his wife. Later on, his landlady claimed a third of his prize as she had given him the ring he pawned to buy the lottery ticket. He was then arrested for firing a gun at a bill collector and died at age 66 while living off food stamps and a $450/month income.
6. Jeffrey Dampier – Wrong Entourage
Jeffrey won the $20 million Illinois lottery jackpot in 1996. Soon after he divorced his wife, splitting the money in half with her. Later on, he remarried, invested in a popcorn business and was giving a lot of money away to family and friends.
He got involved with one of his wife’s sisters, Victoria, who in the end orchestrated his death together with her boyfriend and her other sister, Terry. Jeffrey died tied with shoelaces and shot in the back of his head, while Victoria was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.
7. Vivian Nicholson – “Spend, Spend, Spend”
Viv became such a big spender once her husband, Keith won a huge prize on the football pools in 1961. There was even a musical about her life called “Spend Spend Spend”. The Nicholsons won £152,300 in 1961, which would mean about £3 million today. Viv became famous when she told the media she would “spend, spend, spend” and so she did. Both she and her husband loved expensive cars and holidays, top of the line clothing and extravagant jewellery.
By 1970 they were broke, Keith died in a car accident, she remarried three more times and by 1976, she could not afford to bury her 4th husband. Towards the end of her life, she was living off £87/week and was looking for a job. She died at the age of 71 alone and bankrupt.
8. Jane Park – Sued the Lottery
Jane is another famous case of lottery winner gone broke. She won £1 million playing the Euromillions only so that later she could sue the lottery for ruining her life. Jane spent her money on cars, cosmetic surgery, lavish holidays, designer clothing and anything else her heart desired.
All this time though she was constantly complaining that she had nothing besides money, she was feeling lonely and that she should not have won such a big amount at such a young age. Jane was only 17 when she became UK’s youngest millionaire. She is now back living with her mother in a small flat.
9. Billie Bob Harrell – Gave It All Away
Billie Bob played the Lotto Texas game back in 1997 and won a whopping $31 million prize. Billie’s story is different from most lottery winners who lost it all. He practically gave his money away. He was not a lavish spender, but a well-grounded, church-going man.
He invested in some property and then he simply could not stop lending money to those who needed it, and he believed a lot of people were in need. He gave a lot of his money to the church as well. Within two years of his big win, in 1999, his marriage was in trouble and, sadly, that same year he took his own life.
10. Michael Carroll – Drugs and Jewellery
Michael was another young lottery winner. He won the UK Lotto in 2002. He moved on from being a mild-mannered binman to becoming the big winner of a £9.7-million jackpot, and then to a slaughterhouse-worker hoping to get his binman job back.
Michael spent all his money on a large estate, drugs, jewellery, and wild parties. His drug use got him in jail more than once. 10 years later, he was living off unemployment checks and despite this, he says he has no regrets and continues to play the lottery.
11. Abraham Shakespeare – Dead over Jackpot Money
Abraham was another Florida lottery winner, receiving a $17 million prize in 2006. He did not splash his money away, but unfortunately, this is not a lottery winner success story, as he happened to hang out with the wrong crowd.
It all started two years after winning the jackpot, when Abraham met Dee Dee Moore, who convinced him to go in business together. Moreover, she also managed to convince Abraham to give full access to his funds. At the end of 2009, his family declared him missing, and in February 2010 Dee Dee was convinced to life in prison for his murder.
12. Jack Whittaker – Millionaire Winning the Lottery
Jack was one lottery winner that nobody would have thought to go broke since he was already a millionaire at the time of win. He won the US Powerball in 2002 receiving $113,386,407 after taxes. At the time this was the largest jackpot won by a single ticket.
Over the years, there were quite a few disturbing events in his family. He was robbed of over $500,000, and then his granddaughter died in what was probably a murder. Later on, his daughter was found dead as well, and, lastly, his uninsured home went on fire. He gave his millions to charity and church, and gambled the rest away.
13. Denise Rossi – Didn’t Share and Lost
Denise chose a very interesting approach to life when she won the lottery in 1996. Instead of sharing the joy with her husband, she filed for a divorce. Denise won $1.3 million when playing California SuperLotto Plus and decided to spend it all herself.
However, fate didn’t quite agree with her, as not long after the divorce her husband found out about her lottery win. This was close to being one of those lottery winner success stories, but her husband sued her, and the judge considered that Denise had violated the state asset disclosure laws. Thus, he awarded the entire lottery win to her ex-husband.
14. Ibi Roncailoli – Gambled it All Away
Ibi was another wife who tried to hide her winnings from her husband. Ibi and Joseph already had a wealthy style of living, so when Ibi won $5 million playing Canada Lotto 649, it was not difficult for her to hide her lavish lifestyle. She gave $2 million to a son she had secretly with another man, also gave money and bought property for her two other sons and would gamble away even $1.000 a day.
It wasn’t long before her husband found out she had spent all their fortune. Needless to say, all this did not sit well with Joseph, but his reaction was nothing short of extreme. He chose to poison his wife and eventually he received a 7-year sentence for manslaughter.
15. Lara and Roger Griffith – Divorced over Money
The Griffiths are another example of lives ruined by winning the lottery. Receiving a huge prize can break a marriage if the spouses are not careful enough. As we have seen in many other cases, money can change people. This was the case for Lara and Roger Griffith who won £1.8 million in 2005 and who later on got divorced. Now they both receive financial support from parents to make ends meet. After their win, they started investing, they bought their dream home, and they were actually looking hopeful to the future.
For six years they seemed to be the definition of lottery winners who did it right. One day, though, Roger picked up his Porsche and left, and Lara found out all of the money was gone, so she had to sell her designer bag collection and is now an employee at the salon she used to own.
16. Alex and Rhoda Toth – Ended up in Debt Prison
The couple won a whopping $13 million playing the Florida lottery back in 1990. They chose the annual payments of $666.666.66 over 20 years, which anyone would think had set them for life. They had all the chances to be those lottery winners who are still rich many years later.
As many other lotto winners before them, they spent a lot of money on travelling and gifts for friends and family, and even people they did not know. But, unfortunately, things eventually took a turn for the worse because of Alex’s gambling issues. Later on, the IRS accused them of tax evasion in the amount of $2.5 million. Tragically, Alex died before his court date while Rhoda was sentenced to two years in prison.
17. Urooj Khan – Over before it Started
While this is not the typical story about lottery winners who lost it all, what happened to Urooj was clearly a tragedy. He won $1 million playing the Illinois lottery back in 2012 and received the lump sum of $425,000. He was very excited about his win and had already planned to pay his debts, give money to charity, and grow his dry-cleaning business. Sadly, he died just 1 day after his check was mailed to him.
Initially, the cause of death was established to being heart disease, but a second, more detailed toxicology report found cyanide poisoning to be the true cause. The police have yet to solve his case, and the family is still arguing over who has the right to cash in the cheque.
18. Willie Hurt – Drugs and Court Expenses
Willie struck big when he won the $3.1 million Michigan Lottery jackpot in 1989. He moved from a quiet happily married life to a drug addiction that eventually ruined him. In less than two years after winning the lottery, Willie was in the process of getting a divorce, during which he lost custody of his children.
After severe drug use together with his girlfriend, he was accused of murder when she was found dead. All of Willie’s fortune went on sorting out the divorce, his own court expenses, and aggressive cocaine usage, thus making him yet another lottery winner who lost it all.
19. Lou Eisenberg – No Regrets
Lou is another lottery winner who went from rags to riches and back to rags again. He played the New York Lotto and won $5 million in 1981, which at the time was the highest jackpot win ever. He chose the annual payments of $120,000 over 20 years, but by the time he reached his last payment, he was already broke, and he is now living in a mobile home.
He bought a condo by the sea, supported a lot of people financially, and developed a gambling habit. Aside from this, the two divorces he had to go through were a big strain on his lotto fortune. However, it seems that luck sort of struck twice with him, as one his friends left him his life savings. At the moment, Lou lives off a $1000 a month pension.
20. David Lee Edwards – Drugs took it all
David won a $27 million jackpot in 2001 playing the Powerball. Sadly, he is another lottery winner who lost his fortune. David was an ex-con, unemployed and living with his parents at the time he won the lottery. He then spent $1.5 million on a house, 1.9 million on a jet, $78,000 on a wristwatch, $159,000 on a bracelet, and blew off $200,000 in Las Vegas in six days.
At this rate, David easily spent $12 million in one year. In 2005, both him and his wife were arrested in a drug raid. David died penniless at 58 years of age.
21. Suzanne Mullins – Like the Jackpot Never Happened
Suzanne played the Virginia lottery in 1993 and won a fabulous $4.2 million prize. Together with her husband, Suzanne decided to take the annual payments option, which entitled them to $47.800 every year for 20 years.
In just a few years, though, they had run out of money and decided to borrow from a financial foundation. In 2000, the lottery rules changed, and she was able to cash in the remaining amount of her prize, but ended up spending the money without repaying her loan. Moreover, she now owes over $150,000 and has got no money left from the huge jackpot win.
22. Janite Lee – All on Donations
Janite is the famous lottery winner who lost it all on charity and political donations. She played the State Lottery and won $18 million in 1993, but, sadly, filed for bankruptcy in 2001. She moved from having state dinners with the president to being over $2.5 million in debt only a few years later.
She did not make the best financial decision when she bought a $1 million house with a mortgage rather than paying it outright. At the same time, she kept borrowing money she was not able to give back. The annual payments could not cover all of the money Janite was spending. At the end of this adventure, she had to sell the rights for the remaining lottery payments.
23. Gerald Muswagon – Couldn’t Cope with Winning
Gerald played and lost despite his $10 million Super 7 jackpot win in 1998. He got overexcited as most winners do and started sharing his winnings with friends and family, potentially in an attempt of being the popular cool guy in the group. He spent all of the money on gifts, a new house which he turned into a party-pad, had a few drunk driving incidents as well as assault charges.
In 2005, only 7 years later after winning the jackpot, Gerald went back to a minimum wage job in order to support his partner and six children. The shock of going back was too much for Gerald though as he took his own life the same year.
24. Lisa Arcand – Better off Before Winning
Some might say that what happened to Lisa is quite the typical lottery winner gone bad story. She is one of the people who ended up being worse financially after her win than she ever was before. In 2004, she won $1 million playing the Massachusetts lottery and immediately started spending it. She bought a house, put her son in private school, and opened a restaurant.
In just a few months, she was forced to close the restaurant, so she borrowed money against her annual payments. However, since this lowered her income considerably, she was left with no money saved and very little prospects for the future.
25. Tonda Lynn Dickerson – Challenged Karma
Tonda Lynn winning the Florida Lottery is quite the story. She won $10 million playing the Florida lottery. This is something she used to do together with her co-workers, and it seems they had all agreed to split the prize if any of them ever won. That wasn’t the case when Tonda Lynn won, as she decided to keep the prize to herself.
Her co-workers sued her, but the court allowed her to keep the prize. Since karma never sleeps, Tonda placed her money in a corporation, thus granting her family 51%, which proved to be a very poor choice. This qualified her for gift tax in the amount of $1,119,347.90. She sued the IRS, but this time things didn’t go her way, and she had to pay.
Playing the lottery is always exciting and inviting and gives us the hype of winning and feeling hopeful about the future. Be the next jackpot winner and turn your story into the lottery winner who did it right, rather than be one of the lottery winners who lost it all.