25 Unfortunate Lottery Winners Worth Feeling Sorry For

Posted by , Updated on March 22, 2024

What would you do if you won the lottery? Would you buy a house, a car, maybe a yacht? Would you pay off debt, maybe even your student loans? How about giving money to charity and friends? It’s fun to think about what we would do if we were lottery winners. However, there are some people who have actually won and though it may seem like their dreams came true, their end was more like a nightmare. Many lottery winners got involved with drugs, scandals, gambling, and many other unwise financial decisions. Some lottery winners even ended up taking their own lives. That’s pretty hard to believe? After all, how could owning so much money ever be considered a nightmare? In today’s list we explore 25 unfortunate lottery winners you can’t help but feel sorry for.
If you are ever a lottery winner, be sure not to fall into the same trap these poor unfortunate people did.



Suzanne Mullins

VIRGINIASource: therichest.com, Image:lottoinvestment.com

Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million in the Virginia lottery in 1993 but ended up in deep debt to a company that lent her money by using her winnings as collateral. She borrowed $197,746.15, which she agreed to pay back with her yearly checks from the Virginia lottery through 2006. When the rules changed, allowing her to collect her winnings in a lump sum, she cashed out the remaining amount, but stopped making payments on the loan.


The Unknown unfortunate soul

Lost_main_titleSource: therichest.com, Image: en.wikipedia.org

A man from California lost out on $1 million after he missed the deadline for claiming his lottery winnings. The man, whose name has not been revealed, lost his ticket and didn’t even know he had won until it was too late.


Rhoda and Alex Toth

Florida LottoSource: therichest.com, Image: pixabay.com

Rhoda and Alex Toth won the Florida lottery’s $13 million jackpot in 1990, but by 2005 they had fallen into poverty and were in trouble with the law. How does this even happen? According to the Tampa Bay Times, the couple declared bankruptcy and was accused of tax evasion by the IRS. Alex died just before the case went to trial and Rhoda eventually served two years in prison.


Americo Lopes

Mega_Millions_lottery_ticketsSource: The New York Times, Image: en.wikipedia.org

When construction worker Americo Lopes won the New Jersey lottery with pooled money from fellow workers (and after agreeing to split the winnings if it were to ever happen), Americo decided to lie to his friends about the winnings, and instead keep it for himself. After his co-workers discovered his treachery, they sued him and won.


Tonda Lynn Dickerson

Waitress_taking_an_orderSource: Forbes, Image: en.wikipedia.org

Similar to Americo Lopes, Tonda Lynn Dickerson won $10 million when a frequent customer gave her a winning lottery ticket. Good for her right? Except that Ms. Dickerson had previously agreed to share her winnings with her co-workers (sound familiar). Needless to say upon winning, she turned her back on her promises (which she was later sued for but somehow won) and in a strange twist of fate was forced to pay $1,119,347.90 in taxes (on top of taxes already taken from her winnings).


Evelyn Adams

Las_Vegas_slot_machinesSource: therichest.com, Image: en.wikipedia.org

Evelyn Adams got lucky not once but twice when she won the lottery on two different occasions, in 1985 and again in 1986. The New Jersey native, however, blew nearly $5.5 million by gambling it away in Atlantic City. Maybe she just didn’t want to be rich?


Willie Hurt

Cooking_CrackSource: therichest.com, Image: en.wikipedia.org

In 1989, Willie Hurt won an impressive $3.1 million in the Michigan lottery but his life turned into a nightmare afterward. Two years later he got divorced, lost custody of his children, was charged with attempted murder, and picked up a bad crack-cocaine addiction that ate his entire fortune.


Denise Rossi

DivorceSource: Los Angeles Times, Image: Pixabay

When Denise Rossi won $1.3 million in the California lotto, she left her husband without a word and never looked back. He did nothing to stop her, but after two years he hit back by suing Denise for not disclosing her winnings in the divorce. Consequently, the judge awarded Mr. Rossi with every single penny of the winnings. Now that’s what I call sweet justice.


Billy Bob Harrell Jr.

suicide noteSource: Time, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Billy Bob Harrell Jr. initially thought his prayers were answered when he won the $31 million Texas Lotto jackpot in June 1997. However, it didn’t take long before his financial prowess earned him some unwanted attention from solicitors and freeloaders. A few years later he ended up divorced, broke, and unhappy. The worse part of this story? Billy committed suicide.


Callie Rogers

Callie RogersSource: Huffington post, Image: Mirror.Co.Uk

Callie Rogers was only sixteen when she won £1.9 million in the UK lottery (about $3 million U.S.) in 2003. She went on to have two children and spent her money on partying, vacations, and gifts for friends. She ended up broke before she even knew what hit her. Nevertheless, she says she is happier now than when she was a millionaire.


Lisa Arcand

Tom's_Restaurant_NYCSource: therichest.com, Image: en.wikipedia.org

When Lisa Arcand won $1 million she thought it was a dream come true. She bought a home and new furnishings, took a couple of vacations, enrolled her son in a private school, and opened a restaurant. Less than four years after she won big, she had to close her money draining restaurant, which was the main cause for her bankruptcy.


Martyn and Kay Tott

D23_Expo_2011_-_Lost_props_(Hurley's_lottery_ticket)_(6075269427)Source: therichest.com, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Martyn Tott and his wife, Kay, missed out on a $5 million lottery fortune after losing their winning lotto ticket. They were able to convince officials that they were indeed the owners of the winning lottery ticket, but since there is a thirty-day window for reporting lost tickets (and they missed it), the jackpot became the largest unclaimed amount since the lottery began in 1994. Now that’s bad luck!


Sharon Tirabassi

Toyota_FT-86_Gs1001Source: therichest.com, Image: wikipedia.org

In 2004 Sharon Tirabassi, a single mother who had been on welfare, cashed a check from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. for $10.5 million. In less than a decade though, Sharon ended up broke after buying a big house, fancy cars, designer clothes, throwing lavish parties, going on exotic trips, and giving handouts to family and friends.


Luke Pittard

BurgerSource: therichest.com, Image: wikipedia.org

Luke Pittard won a £1.3 million jackpot ($1.8 million in U.S.) in 2006, but a year and a half later he was flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Apparently, this British lad spent it all on a trip to the Canary Islands, lots of booze, a flashy wedding, and a house.


Vivian Nicholson

luxury clothingSource: therichest.com, Image: pixaday.com

Vivian Nicholson won £152,300 ($240,000) in Britain’s football pools in 1961 when modest amounts of money still had true value. However, she ended up blowing it all on clothes while trying to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. After a few years she ended up a jobless widow who only had herself to blame.


Gerald Muswagon

125285868_fdc560111d_oSource: therichest.com, Image: flickr.com by farm1

When Gerald Muswagon won the $10 million Canadian Super 7 jackpot in 1998 he never imagined that seven years later he would end up flat broke and sleeping in his parents’ garage. Nevertheless, after an outrageous spending spree that involved a new house and a new business (which went under), Gerald’s fall from multi-million grace was undeniable. Sadly, Gerald hanged himself in 2005.


Ibi Roncailoli

Regular_strength_enteric_coated_aspirin_tabletsSource: Euromillions, Image: wikipedia.org

Ibi Roncailoli’s story could have easily been the plot of a TV film. The Canadian native won $5 million in a 1991 Lotto drawing. Oddly, Ibi was already rich. She was married to Joseph Roncailoli, a gynecologist, who had a great salary. Nevertheless, Ibi (who was in charge of all of the family’s finances) squandered not only the lottery winnings, but all of the family’s finances on gambling and what can be considered as child support without her husband’s knowledge. Nevertheless, when her husband found out, he killed her with painkillers.


Barry Shell

Lottery-winner_parking_spots_at_the_Atlantic_Lottery_Corporation_(2009)Source: therichest.com, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Barry Shell used one of his very last dollars to buy a lotto ticket and ended up winning $4 million in the Ontario lottery in 2009. Unfortunately for him there was a warrant out for his arrest on charges of theft and possession of stolen property, and police spotted him after seeing a photo of him with his winnings. He ended up giving his prize money to a relative and going to jail.


Janite Lee

political campaignSource: therichest.com, Image: wikipedia.org

After winning an $18 million lottery jackpot in 1993, Janite Lee’s earnings were gone within a decade. This zealous woman was obsessed with politics and spent every single dime on political donations.


Andrew Jackson Whittaker Jr.

Texas_Lottery_drawingSource: Time, Image: wikipedia.org

In 2002, West Virginia building contractor Andrew Jackson Whittaker Jr. walked away with $114 million after taxes on a $315 million multi-state Powerball drawing. After giving part of the money to charity, tragedy struck Whittaker. He started going to strip clubs and drinking heavily. Whittaker was also robed, his mother died, a his granddaughters boyfriend was found dead in his home due to a drug overdose.


William “Bud” Post

laxtkaps3Source: therichest.com, Image: newsbeast.gr

William “Bud” Post, also known as the “Unhappy Lottery Winner,” won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 but was $1 million in debt within a year. His problems included a brother who tried to murder him, a wife who forced him to give her one-third of the jackpot, and a conviction on an assault charge.


David Lee Edwards

DavidSource: therichest.com, Image: rollingout.com

After spending many years in jail for robbery, David Lee Edward’s luck changed when he won $27 million in a Powerball jackpot in 2001. However, David blew his money on drugs, exotic sports cars, women, and even a jet. Five years later his money was gone. Edwards died broke and, ironically, he was cremated because his estranged family couldn’t afford to bury him.


Lara and Roger Griffiths

couple fightingSource: therichest.com, Image: pixabay.com

Before winning a $2.76 million lottery jackpot in 2005, Lara and Roger Griffiths were the perfect couple. Once they won, however, their lives dramatically changed. Despite finally buying their million-dollar dream house and a Porsche, problems started to appear out of nowhere. Roger drove away in the Porsche after Lara confronted him over emails suggesting he was interested in another woman, their happy fourteen-year marriage eventually crumbled, a freak fire gutted their house, and every penny of their fortune disappeared.


Lou Eisenberg

Seniors CheckSource: therichest.com, Image: wikipedia.org

When Lou Eisenberg struck it rich in 1981, winning $5 million in what was then the largest lottery payout ever, people started asking him for advice about money. It turned out, though, that he was the one who needed advice since the former multimillionaire ended up living in a mobile home somewhere in Florida on $250 a week from Social Security and pension checks.


Michael Carroll

garbage manSource: therichest.com, Image: wikipedia.org

Michael Carroll, a British garbage man, shocked the world in 2002 when he won Britain’s £9.7 million ($15 million) jackpot. Five years later, after endless amounts of cocaine, parties, hookers, and cars, Michael applied for his old job.