15 Lottery Horror Stories That Might Make You Happy You Didn't Win Powerball
If you've ever watched Lost, you'll remember that winning the lottery isn't always what it's cracked up to be. And Hurley, the character who ended up stuck on the island after winning the lottery, doesn't even have one of the worst Powerball horror stories out there.
Sure, you're probably thinking that if you won the $700 million Powerball, you'd run straight to a financial planner and invest everything that you got to keep after taxes, but maybe you'd just buy one nice thing first. A luxury bag you've already dreamed about — or a mansion! One common theme of people who win the lottery and then lose it all is that that one nice bag turns into a spending spree on any number of legal (and illegal) items. But some people find themselves dogged by friends and relatives who found out about their winnings — which is why some lottery winners try to remain anonymous.
In those cases, the lottery winners went to a financial planner, donated to charity, and things still turned out for the worse. So if you're disappointed that you didn't win the Powerball, here are a couple of reasons to buck up.
1. Make Sure You Know The Laws
After 25 years married to her husband Thomas, a woman named Denise Rossi suddenly handed him divorce papers — without telling him that she'd won the lottery days before. Turns out that in her state of California, you have to disclose your assets during divorce proceedings, which Rossi failed to do. If she'd just been up front about her winnings, her ex-husband probably would have gotten half of them. Because she tried to hide it, though, he got it all and she ended up with nothing.
2. Be Mature
British teen Callie Rogers won the lottery at 16 — 1,875,000 pounds, to be exact. She ended up going on a spending spree for herself and her family over the next several years and developed a drug addiction. Less than a decade later, she had only a couple thousand pounds left from the winnings and was back to living with her mother.
3. Be ... Lucky?
Urooj Khan is a perfect example of a lottery winner who truly became a victim, and not a victim of his own bad choices. When the Indian immigrant to the U.S. won $1 million, he took it as a lump sum and then had dinner with his family to celebrate the day the check came in. That night, he got very ill and died in the hospital. What was originally called "natural causes" turned out to be something much darker, however — Khan had been poisoned with cyanide.
4. Just Stop Gambling
Buying a lottery ticket is gambling, but if you've won the lottery twice, it's best to cut that habit off. Evelyn Adams won the lottery twice and then kept gambling. She ended up blowing through her $5.4 million and then living in a trailer.
5. Don't Trust Just Anyone
In a truly tragic turn, a lottery winner by the name of Abraham Shakespeare lost everything — including his life — after he hit it big. A former truck driver's assistant, Shakespeare was a victim of his own generous impulses. He always tried to provide for the people who came to him wanting help, including a woman named DeeDee Moore. After offering to help manage Shakespeare's winnings, Moore began stealing from him — and then murdered him in an attempt to take the rest of his money.
6. Pay Your Taxes
After a regular customer gave his favorite Waffle House employees lottery tickets as a gift, one of those employees, Tonda Lynn Dickerson, won $10 million. While all of the other employees were excited because of a deal they'd made to split all of the winnings, Dickerson allegedly forgot that deal. She faced a series of lawsuits from her coworkers and the man who'd given her the ticket, who claimed that he wanted a pick-up truck bought for him with the winnings. While she won all of the lawsuits, she forgot one little detail — the fact that she had to pay taxes on the corporation she'd formed to keep all of the money safe. Whoops? The IRS, Dickerson found out, will always win.
7. First, Take Some Time Away
Curtis Sharp won $5 million in 1982, and it was gone five years later. It went to his family, real estate, cars — basically, what you think of as typical luxury spending. Sharp is a minister now, and he has a piece of advice for anyone who suddenly comes into a lot of money: take some time away to clear your head first.
8. Be Subtle
When he won $31 million in in 1997, the first thing Billie Bob Harrell Jr. did was quit his job at Home Depot and take his family to Hawaii. He then gave a lot of money to charity, bought lavish gifts for his family and friends, and donated 480 turkeys to the poor (seriously). The downward spiral started when total strangers noticed what was going on and started harassing Harrell for donations, and then he and his wife separated. He ended up committing suicide only 20 months after he won the lottery.
9. Don't Quit Your Day Job
Roger and Laura Griffiths won 1.8 million pounds and then didn't quite plan things right. They bought a dream house and then tried to become a rock star and business owner, but things didn't exactly go as planned. Laura accused Roger of having had an affair, and then instead of really owning up to anything, Roger simply left Laura with a note saying that they were not only broke, but also hugely in debt.
10. Again, Be Lucky
Jeffrey Dampier has another tragic lottery winner story, which was in no way his fault. He used his $20 million to open a gourmet popcorn shop, which was always his dream. He also pampered his family with gifts — and that included his sister-in-law Victoria. That was already a complicated relationship, because he happened to be having an affair with her. Things got significantly more complicated later, when Victoria and her boyfriend robbed and then shot Dampier. The justice system didn't fail Dampier's remaining family, however, as the two perpetrators are now serving life sentences for murder.
11. Be Careful With Your Investments
Specifically, if you win $3 million and are looking to invest it, steer clear of investing in crystal meth drug rings. Ronnie Music Jr. didn't follow this advice, which ultimately got him arrested.
12. Don't Shoot People
When William Post III won $16.2 million, the first thing he did was spend twice what his first annual installment was worth within three months of receiving it — and things only got worse from there. His bad spending habits continued, he was eventually arrested for shooting an ex-wife (his sixth ex-wife, specifically), the person who helped buy him the tickets sued and ended up taking the winnings, and his brother hired someone to kill him. There's so much going on there, but it seems likely that the lottery curse has something to do with it.
13. Be Careful With Your Donations
Sure, give to charity — but maybe don't give so much that you go into millions of dollars of debt. Janite Lee, a South Korean immigrant to the United States, won $18 million and then started making massive charitable donations, mostly to educational and political causes. Only a few years after she'd enjoyed a dinner with Bill Clinton and Al Gore, she had to file for bankruptcy with over $2.5 million in debt.
14. Think Carefully Before You Buy That Ticket
Jack Whittaker was already wealthy before he won $315 million in 2002. Things started to go badly with that extra wealth, though. Thieves robbed him of $545,000 that he left in his car, and that's not even where it gets really dark. His daughter and granddaughter died in drug-related deaths, and Whittaker ended up broke only four years after winning the money. "I think if you have something, there's always someone else that wants it," Whittaker said. "I wish I'd torn that ticket up."
Feeling any better about not winning the Powerball? There are certainly some happy endings for lottery winners too — but these horror stories are nothing to sniff at.