Lottery winners, despite overwhelming odds, are a rare few to win millions on the turn of a dime. Many are simple people just struggling to get by. Having their financial concerns suddenly vanish must feel good. However, there’s a darker side to winning the lottery. Many winners end up worse off than they were before, broke, deeper in debt, divorced, or worst of all, dead. Like the old saying goes, more money, more problems. Here are the 25 Worst Lottery Winner Horror Stories.
Marie Holmes worked at Wal-Mart when she discovered her “random” numbers placed in the lottery won $188 million. Soon after, her life was wrecked by lawsuits, bailing out her boyfriend from jail all the time, and multiple other poor financial decisions, leaving her emotionally and financially drained. Then, she found out her numbers weren’t so random after all and were carefully chosen by her mother. Her mother renounced her claim to the ticket and gave it to her daughter, Marie.
Curtis Sharp hit it big in 1982, winning $5 million dollars. He blew all of it in five years, spending about a million a year on family, cars, real estate, and women. Fast forward to today, and he’s a minister in Antioch, Tennessee. His advice to other winners is to get away to clear their head before spending any of it.
19-year-old Michael Carroll was already a small-time criminal with a police ankle bracelet on as he collected his lottery winnings of $14 million. He was quickly named “Lotto Lout” for buying a mansion and other lavish items, terrorizing the neighbors, and going through his money like water. It wasn’t long before he was broke and living on unemployment with his mother. He’s now said he’s lucky to collect his $300 a week wages from a cookie factory, but that his former lifestyle would have led him to an early grave.
Billie Bob Harrell Jr.
In 1997, Billie Bob Harrell Jr. thought his struggles were over. He won $30 million from the lottery and planned to live the easy life. After quitting his job at the Home Depot, he took his family on a Hawaiian vacation, bought family and friends houses, and donated tons of money to his church and charity. Unfortunately, he began to receive unwanted attention demanding money and also made a bad deal with a company that provides lump sum payments to lotto winners, getting much less than he originally would have received. After he and his wife separated, he went into a downward spiral and shot himself in the head. Before he died, he told his financial advisor, “Winning the lottery was the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Tonda Lynn Dickerson
Tonda Lynn Dickerson was a Waffle House waitress when she received the news she had won $10 million from the lottery. The other waitresses at the Waffle House were ecstatic because before they all bought tickets, they promised to split the winnings between them. Well, Tonda didn’t remember such an agreement and planned to keep the money herself. After that, her coworkers weren’t so happy and sued her. When all was said and done, they lost and she got to keep the money. Then, she was sued again by her boss who said he was promised a brand new truck. He took it all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court but lost each time. Realizing she needed to protect her assets, Tonda and her family created a corporation. But when she gave a gift in shares to her family through the corporation, the IRS came after her for not paying taxes on it. She fought them but ended up losing and having to pay roughly $1 million in taxes.
Andrew Jack Whittaker
Andrew Jack Whittaker won a whopping $315 million when he already had $17 million in his own personal finances. Even after giving tons of his money away to charity, he couldn’t escape his own demons and the eventual downfall many suffer when winning the lottery. He was robbed several times, which completely emptied his bank accounts. Several of his family members died as well, including his mother, his granddaughter, and her boyfriend. After four years, he was totally broke.
Steve Granger won $900,000 but after taxes kept $600,000. He put most of it away for retirement for him and his wife, but the endless harassment constantly put them on edge. Some people said at a party, “There goes those lottery people,” in an ugly tone. Random strangers would ask him to invest in a gold mine and some people would touch him because they thought he was lucky and wanted some of it.
Roger and Laura Griffiths
After winning 1.8 million pounds (Roughly 2.3 million dollars) at the lottery, Roger and Laura Griffiths got way too carried away with spending their newfound money. After purchasing a new home, they pursued their dreams of being a rock star and a business owner. But after Laura accused him of having an affair, Roger took off with a note saying they were both officially broke and in massive debt.
After making the big win in the Illinois lottery for $20 million, Jeffrey Dampier started his own gourmet popcorn business. He gave presents to his family and his sister-in-law Victoria Jackson, who he was having an affair with. In 2005, Victoria and her boyfriend tied up Dampier and robbed him. Then, Victoria’s boyfriend pointed a gun at her and said, “Shoot him or I’ll shoot you.” So, she shot him in the back of the head.
At the young age of 16-years-old, Callie Rogers hit it big, winning 1,875,000 pounds (roughly 2,846,812 dollars). At first, she claimed she wouldn’t spend much of the money and just buy a normal car and house. However, once the excitement died down, she blew a lot of the money on cocaine and plastic surgery. She now only has a couple thousand left of the winnings, is raising three kids, and is training to become a nurse.
In 1991, Willie Hurt was a married father of three who won the lottery for $3.1 million. However, his life spun out of control when his addiction to crack cocaine lead to him murdering a woman. His lawyer said he’s now penniless and in the process of a divorce.
Evelyn Adams had amazing luck in 1985 and 1986, winning the lottery twice and earning up to 5.4 million dollars. However, because she couldn’t say no to people and her own demons, she ended up broke and living in a trailer twenty years later. She spent most of the money on spending sprees and heavy gambling.
Thomas and Denise Rossi
After Denise Rossi won $1.3 million from the lottery, she kept it a secret and days later divorced her husband after 25 years of marriage. She said she didn’t want him to get his hands on it. However, a judge ordered her to give her ex-husband the $1.3 million in full because she didn’t disclose the money and acted out of fraud and malice.
Willie Seeley and his wife were simple people, but all that changed when they won $450 million from the lottery. At first, they just wanted to live a leisurely life, but things didn’t work out that way. First, he had to split the winnings with 15 others that also pitched in to buy the ticket, leaving him with only $4 million. Still, he was able to leave his job, buy the things he wanted, and do the stuff he wanted. Despite all that, he and his wife still consider the money a curse, saying it drew them unwanted attention from long-lost relatives, beggars, and every television producer on the planet. Seeley’s advice to any future winners: Run.
Ronnie Music Jr.
Ronnie Music Jr. hit the jackpot, winning $3 million from a scratch-off game. However, his investments weren’t as lucky or smart. He took a portion of his winnings to invest in a crystal meth drug ring which ultimately led to his arrest and possible life-in-prison sentence.
Abraham Shakespeare won $30 million in 2006 and ever since then people had been leeching off of his winnings, taking advantage of him. He gave a lot of his money away to help people out. A woman named Dorice “Dee Dee” Moore approached him about writing a book about the people taking advantage of him, and he agreed to let her write it. Gradually, she became his financial advisor and took control of all his property and money. When he found out what she was up to, he threatened to kill her, but she killed him first, shooting him in the chest multiple times. She was quickly convicted without her putting up much of a fight and is serving a life sentence.
Jospeh and Ibi Roncaioli
Doctor Joseph Roncaioli and his wife Ibi were already loaded when they won the lottery for $5 million. They were known as a happy elderly couple to their neighbors. However, their supposed happy lifestyle changed when Joseph discovered Ibi had given away the $5 million to a secret son and spent their entire life savings. Already living an unhealthy lifestyle, Joseph stuck Ibi with a poison needle, killing her. He claimed he was checking her for blood due to her poor health, but prosecutors saw through his lies and sentenced him to seven years.
Alex and Ronda Toth
Alex and Ronda Toth were both in dire straights when they won the lottery in 1990. Alex was on disability and Ronda worked as a nursing assistant. They struggled to put food on the table or to put down $200 on a car they needed. One day Alex wanted to buy a lotto ticket, but Ronda didn’t think they could afford it. He bought it anyway, leaving them with only $24 left to their name. They ended up winning $13 million, but the blessing of rags to riches turned into a horrible curse. Their estranged children came out of the woodwork, hungry for their newfound wealth. They had to cut them all off after one of them tried to kill them. After a decade, they were back in the news after a grand injury indicted them for tax fraud. Together, they owed $2 million in back taxes and could have faced up to 24 years in prison. Now broke, they moved in with their children. Before Alex could be sentenced to prison, he died at the age of sixty due to his poor health.
Immigrating to the United States from India in 1989, Urooj Khan started a dry-cleaning business in Chicago. Years later, he bought a winning lottery ticket for $1 million but opted for the lump sum payment, which after taxes was $424,000. He never saw a dime. He died a day after the check was issued but never received it. His estate went into a bitter battle between his wife and stepdaughter. Authorities believe he was poisoned with cyanide but after four years, the police have not done anything about it, calling it “An active and open investigation.”
In 1993, Janite Lee won $18 million and went with the lump sum option. She took the rare route and spent most of her winnings on charity organizations and philanthropic endeavors. Her political contributions allowed her to dine with Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and she even has her name in the reading room of the Washington University School of Law. However, she blew most of it in under eight years with less than $700 in her bank account and $2.3 million in debt. Naturally, she declared bankruptcy.
At age 17, Jane Park won 1 million pounds (1,303,600 dollars) and immediately bought a Louie Vuitton handbag. The spending never stopped there, and she drove herself into a depression, questioning what the purpose of her life was, and subsequently blames the officials of the lottery for ruining her life. However, the officials she blames claim to have gone to extensive lengths to ensure Park would be able to use her money wisely.
Despite taking home $735,000 in lottery winnings, Amanda Clayton continued to accept food stamps and public health insurance. Found guilty of fraud, she was put on nine months probation. In 2012, she was found dead of a drug overdose.
William Post III
When William Post III won $16 million, he figured his problems were over. They were just getting started. After only 3 months of investing his money poorly, spending it on lavish items, and giving it away, he was not only broke but $500,000 in debt. To make matters worse, his brother hired a hit man to kill him, and he ended in jail for firing a gun at a bill collector. He claimed he was much happier when he was broke, and in 2006, he died of respiratory failure at the age of 66.
David Lee Edwards
David Lee Edward, an ex-con from Kentucky, won $27 million in the Powerball jackpot and initially visited financial advisors about how to manage the money well. However, instead of taking their advice, he and his wife decided to blow all their money on expensive stuff, including drugs. Due to their drug use, they both contracted hepatitis. 12 years later, he ended up on hospice and died at the age of 58. His financial advisor claimed that if he had listened to him, he would have been hauling in $85,000 a month.
Don Cruz won the HGTV Dream Home Sweepstakes and is one of the only winners to try to live in the actual house he won, but he is also a prime example of how doing that is a big mistake. While living in the house, they ended up having to spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, forcing them into foreclosure and into putting the house up for auction.
Looking for more lottery winner stories? Check out 25 Unfortunate Lottery Winners You Can’t Help But Feel Sorry For.
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