I remember the promise that if we passed gambling in our state, it would fund Education. I recall people saying if the city would only allow gambling it would solve all its money problems, yet I have seen numerous gambling establishments close and numerous ones in city who are the only ones who are behind on payment of taxes to city. I also remember last year legislators robbed gas tax funds in the public Works Trust funds to pay for Education- now they want to raise gas tax and car tab taxes to pay for transportation. Send in your ballot today and voice your opinion on the new taxes they passed last session as well. Your vote may not make a difference either way, but they will know how you feel about taxes. Sadly, only 50% of voters will return their ballot by next Tuesday.
Perhaps when you read of the following lottery winners, who is the lucky one?
10 Lottery Winners Who Lost It All
This week, California residents Jacki and Gilbert Cisneros won a $266 million jackpot in the lottery, the eighth-largest jackpot in Mega Millions history. We offer them our hearty congratulations! But the couple better watch out how they spend it and should be careful how they hand out money or they could end up like some of these people.
Which is why we present to you the stories of 10 people who won the lottery and ended up losing everything. Whether it was reckless spending or a tragic death, if anyone wished they could go back in time to change their actions, it would be these people.
Jeffrey Dampier: $20 million in Illinois Lottery
Dampier and his wife won the $20 million prize back in 1996 and used the winnings to help his family out by buying them houses and the like. He also started a gourmet popcorn store in Tampa, Florida which performed quite well and provided jobs for his family.
But in July of 2005, Dampier went to visit his sister-in-law and her boyfriend when she claimed she had car troubles. Her boyfriend pulled a pistol on Dampier and the two kidnapped him and killed him. They were ultimately convicted in 2006 and 2006 and received life sentences for their crimes.
Barry Shell: $3.8 million in Ontario Lottery
45-year-old Barry Shell of Brampton, Ontario was broke as a joke and used one of his last dollars to buy a winning lottery ticket in 2009. He won $4 million Canadian dollars ($3.8m USD). The thing is, Shell had a warrant out for his arrest on theft and possession of stolen property charges. Police arrested him after this photo of him claiming his prize was taken. He handed the cash off to a relative who later bailed him out.
Evelyn Adams: $5.4 million in New Jersey Lottery
In the mid-'80s, Adams won the lottery twice; once in 1985 and again in 1986 to defy all odds against her. The New Jersey native won a cool $5.4 million but was a heavy gambler. And with Atlantic City being located in New Jersey, it wasn't long before Adams had lost all her money. Today, she now lives in a trailer park and is flat broke.
Fred Topous Jr.: $57 million in a Mega Millions drawing
Freddy won the seventh-largest jackpot in Michigan state history back in June of 2008. The $57 million prize was obviously long enough to last a lifetime-and-a-half, though he took the $33 million lump sum payment instead. The problem was, Topous Jr. is a convicted sex offender who was released from prison in 2006. He'll have to register as a sex offender until 2024, but when you can buy a private island like he can, it's certainly not that big of an issue anymore.
William Post: $16.2 million in Pennsylvania Lottery
In 1988, William "Bud" Post won a $16.2 million jackpot in the Pennsylvania state lottery. That was the start of his problems. An ex-girlfriend sued him for a share of winnings and won, his brother hired a hit man to try to kill him hoping to inherit some winnings, and other relatives bugged him constantly for money. Within one year, Post was $1 million in debt and filed for bankruptcy. He now lives on food stamps and a $450 month stipend
Willie Hurt: $3.1 million in Michigan Lottery
In 1989, Willie won a $3.1 million jackpot in the Michigan Lottery and was on top of the world.
Fast forward to two years later and Hurt was divorced, lost custody of his children, charged with attempted murder, and had one hell of a crack-cocaine addiction. So bad that he blew through his entire fortune.
Juan Rodriguez: $149 million in a Mega Millions drawing
The NYC-based Rodriguez was working as a parking attendant making less than $30,000 a year and was completely broke. He blew one of his last dollars on a lottery ticket for a Mega Millions drawing that would net him a $149 million prize. He took the $88 million lump sum payment and all was well for a short time.
But soon after, his wife divorced him and filed for half of his lottery winnings. She won but Rodriguez was able to hang on to his half.
Suzanne Mullins: $4.2 million in Virginia Lottery
Mullins won the lottery back in 1993 and opted for yearly payouts instead of a lump sum. As a result, she quickly found herself in debt and used her future payouts as collateral for a $200,000 loan. Mullins later switched to a lump sum payout but never paid back her debts. The loan company filed suit and won judgment for a $154k settlement but they haven't collected anything because Mullins reportedly has no assets.
Luke Pittard: $1.9 million in UK Lottery $1.9 million may sound like a lot but you can't live off it forever.
Welsh-born Luke Pittard won a £1.3 million jackpot ($1.9m USD) in 2006 but spent it all on a trip to the Canary Islands, a wedding, and a house. A year-and-a-half later, Pittard was forced to take up a job in a McDonald's flipping burgers. He says he's happy though and his leftover winnings still collect interest.
Billy Bob Harrell Jr.: $31 million in Texas Lottery
A Pentecostal preacher working as a stockboy at Home Depot hit the $31 million jackpot back in 1997. At first, life was good with Billy Bob buying a ranch, six other homes, and some new cars. Like many others who win the lottery, he was unable to simply say "NO!" when people asked him for a handout.
Later in life he divorced his wife and eventually committed suicide, the stress apparently too much to handle for this lottery winner.
Living on food stamps
William "Bud" Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 but now lives on his Social Security. "I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare," says Post. A former girlfriend successfully sued him for a share of his winnings. It wasn't his only lawsuit. A brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him, hoping to inherit a share of the winnings. Other siblings pestered him until he agreed to invest in a car business and a restaurant in Sarasota, Fla., -- two ventures that brought no money back and further strained his relationship with his siblings. Post even spent time in jail for firing a gun over the head of a bill collector. Within a year, he was $1 million in debt. Post admitted he was both careless and foolish, trying to please his family. He eventually declared bankruptcy. Now he lives quietly on $450 a month and food stamps. "I'm tired, I'm over 65 years old, and I just had a serious operation for a heart aneurysm. Lotteries don't mean (anything) to me," says Post.
Deeper in debt
Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million in the Virginia lottery in 1993. Now she's deeply in debt to a company that lent her money using the 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 in the remaining amount. But she stopped making payments on the loan. She blamed the debt on the lengthy illness of her uninsured son-in-law, who needed $1 million for medical bills Mark Kidd, the Roanoke, Va., lawyer who represented the Singer Asset Finance Company who sued Mullins, confirms her plight. He won a judgment for the company against Mullins for $154,147 last May, but they have yet to collect a nickel. "My understanding is she has no assets," says Kidd.
Back to the basics
Ken Proxmire was a machinist when he won $1 million in the Michigan lottery. He moved to California and went into the car business with his brothers. Within five years, he had filed for bankruptcy. "He was just a poor boy who got lucky and wanted to take care of everybody," explains Ken's son Rick.
"It was a hell of a good ride for three or four years, but now he lives more simply. There's no more talk of owning a helicopter or riding in limos. We're just everyday folk. Dad's now back to work as a machinist," says his son.
Willie Hurt of Lansing, Mich., won $3.1 million in 1989. Two years later he was broke and charged with murder. His lawyer says Hurt spent his fortune on a divorce and crack cocaine.
Charles Riddle of Belleville, Mich., won $1 million in 1975. Afterward, he got divorced, faced several lawsuits and was indicted for selling cocaine.
Missourian Janite Lee won $18 million in 1993. Lee was generous to a variety of causes, giving to politics, education and the community. But according to published reports, eight years after winning, Lee had filed for bankruptcy with only $700 left in two bank accounts and no cash on hand.
One Southeastern family won $4.2 million in the early '90s. They bought a huge house and succumbed to repeated family requests for help in paying off debts. The house, cars and relatives ate the whole pot. Eleven years later, the couple is divorcing, the house is sold and they have to split what is left of the lottery proceeds. The wife got a very small house. The husband has moved in with the kids. Even the life insurance they bought ended up getting cashed in. "It was not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," says their financial advisor.
Luck is fleeting These sad-but-true tales are not uncommon, say the experts.
"For many people, sudden money can cause disaster," says Susan Bradley, a certified financial planner in Palm Beach, Fla., and founder of the Sudden Money Institute, a resource center for new money recipients and their advisors.
"In our culture, there is a widely held belief that money solves problems. People think if they had more money, their troubles would be over. When a family receives sudden money, they frequently learn that money can cause as many problems as it solves," she says.
Craig Wallace, a senior funding officer for a company that buys lottery annuity payments in exchange for lump sums, agrees.
"Going broke is a common malady, particularly with the smaller winners. Say you've won $1 million. What you've really won is a promise to be paid $50,000 a year. People win and they think they're millionaires. They go out and buy houses and cars and before they know it, they're in way over their heads," he says.
Are you really a 'millionaire'? Part of the problem is that the winners buy into the hype.
"These people believe they are millionaires. They buy into the hype, but most of these people will go to their graves without ever becoming a millionaire," says Wallace, who has been in the business for almost a decade.
"In New Jersey, they manipulate the reality of the situation to sell more tickets. Each winner takes a picture with a check that becomes a 3-foot by 5-foot stand-up card. The winner is photographed standing next to a beautiful woman and the caption reads: 'New Jersey's newest millionaire.'"
Winning plays a game with your head Bradley, who authored "Sudden Money: Managing a Financial Windfall," says winners get into trouble because they fail to address the emotional connection to the windfall.
"There are two sides to money. The interior side is the psychology of money and the family relationship to money. The exterior side is the tax codes, the money allocation, etc."
"The goal is to integrate the two. People who can't integrate their interior relationship with money appropriately are more likely to crash and burn," says Bradley.
"Often they can keep the money and lose family and friends -- or lose the money and keep the family and friends -- or even lose the money and lose the family and friends."
Bill Pomeroy, a certified financial planner in Baton Rouge, La., has dealt with a number of lottery winners who went broke.
"Because the winners have a large sum of money, they make the mistake of thinking they know what they're doing. They are willing to plunk down large sums on investments they know nothing about or go in with a partner who may not know how to run a business."
What if you get so (un)lucky? To offset some bad early decision-making and the inevitable requests of friends, relatives and strangers, Bradley recommends lottery winners start by setting up a DFZ or decision-free zone.
"Take time out from making any financial decisions," she says. "Do this right away. For some people, it's smart to do it before you even get your hands on the money.
"People who are not used to having money are fragile and vulnerable, and there are plenty of people out there who are willing to prey on that vulnerability -- even friends and family," she cautions.
"It's not a time to decide what stocks to buy or jump into a new house purchase or new business venture.
"It's a time to think things through, sort things out and seek an advisory team to help make those important financial choices."
As an example, Bradley says that people who come into a windfall will typically put buying a house as No. 1 in list of 12 choices, while investing is No. 11.
"You really don't want to buy a new house before taking the time to think about what the consequences are.
"A lot of people who don't have money don't realize how much it costs to live in a big house -- decorators, furniture, taxes, insurance, even utility costs are greater. People need a reality check before they sign the contract," she says.
Evelyn Adams, the N.J. lottery double-winner, learned these lessons the hard way.
"There are a lot of people out there like me who don't know how to deal with money," laments Adams. "Hey, some people went broke in six months. At least I held on for a few years."