Who doesn’t dream of landing those winning numbers? Everyone fantasizes about winning the lottery and being showered in millions. You can kiss your job goodbye and live happily ever after, floating in your private swimming pool… Right? That’s what we all like to think. Yet many of those who win the lottery eventually end up in even worse shape than they started in. Hard to believe but true. People make all kinds of stupid mistakes when they hit the big time, from making lousy investments to blowing it all on drugs. Here we profile 20 of the dumbest decisions that people made after each landing the jackpot.
20. Evelyn Adams
It’s hard to believe the luck of Evelyn Adams. She didn’t just win the lottery; she won it twice. The two prizes – in 1985 and 1986, respectively – totaled an impressive $5.4 million, in fact. Unfortunately, though, that was where her lucky streak ended. Adams took her money and dropped it into the slot machines of Atlantic City, one quarter at a time. She lost it all, too, and come the beginning of the 21st century she was back in a trailer.
19. Denise Rossi
Perhaps the biggest hint that your marriage is over? When your wife hides the fact that she won the lottery. It may sound crazy, but that’s exactly what Denise Rossi did. Shortly after winning $1.3 million in 1996, Rossi quietly filed for divorce. Unfortunately for her, though, it’s against the law to conceal your assets, and a judge subsequently handed all of her winnings over to her ex.
18. Lara and Roger Griffiths
Lara and Roger Griffiths from the U.K. were ready to pop the champagne when they won the equivalent of $2.3 million. They immediately bought a Porsche and a house – but it appears money can’t fix everything. Their marriage fell apart when Lara accused Roger of cheating. Then their house burned down. And in the end, they were divorced, broke and homeless.
17. Alex and Rhoda Toth
What could be better for a marriage than a lottery win, right? Well, think again. When Alex and Rhoda Toth won $13 million in 1990, they wisely chose to receive their winnings in installments over two decades. However, they unwisely decided to party down in Vegas and then became embroiled in legal battles with their family. As a result, they wound up living in a trailer, using their car engine for electricity.
16. Willie Hurt
Michigan man Willie Hurt won $3.1 million back in 1989, and his big prize gave him a chance to turn it all around. However, his primary investments ended up being a crack cocaine addiction and a divorce. A mere two years after his win, moreover, he was broke once more and facing murder charges to boot.
15. Jack Whittaker Jr.
Jack Whittaker Jr. was already doing pretty well for himself as the head of a successful business when he won $315 million. At that point, though, common sense seemed to go out the window. For starters, he took the prize as a single payment, which stripped it down to just under $115 million after taxes. Then he proceeded to blow the lot. In fact, over the course of a single evening he spent $100,000 on strippers before having another $500,000 robbed from his car. In cash. Ouch.
14. Jonathan Vargas
Jonathan Vargas was only 19 when he won $35 million on the Powerball, and being young and impressionable probably didn’t help him when considering investment opportunities. That might explain why he ended up handing his money over to a man named Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart. Hart planned to create a bikini wrestling league called “Wrestlicious” – and Vargas is reported to have subsequently lost everything in the deal.
13. Viv Nicholson
Back in 1961, Viv Nicholson’s husband won big in the U.K. soccer betting pools. Nicholson proudly proclaimed that she was set to “spend, spend, spend!” And she was true to her word, blowing huge amounts on high fashion. Alas, she soon found herself broke and friendless, and come 1965 she was bankrupt.
12. Tonda Lynn
Tonda Lynn was working at Waffle House when she had a $10 million lottery windfall. However, Lynn didn’t disclose that she had previously agreed to share her winnings with two other waitresses. The result? They sued. But wait: Lynn actually won! But wait a second time! To protect her money from the lawsuit, Lynn had put all of the cash into a company and made her family shareholders. The state then happily informed her that she now owed a humongous gift tax.
11. Amanda Clayton
Amanda Clayton was living on welfare when she won the lottery, so you might imagine that it would have dramatically changed her circumstances. However, unlike other lottery winners who were supremely careless with their winnings, Clayton continued claiming her welfare checks. And when the state discovered this, she was sentenced for fraud. Sadly, moreover, she would be found dead before her probation was up, killed by a drug overdose at the age of 25.
10. Callie Rogers
The youngest person to ever win the U.K. National Lottery, Callie Rogers was just 16 when she won her millions in 2003. However, Rogers spent it the way that someone aged 16 would: foolishly. She threw money away on drugs, partying and plastic surgery. And in yet another tragic lottery twist, she even attempted suicide. Still, come the age of 22 she was broke but apparently much happier and healthier.
9. Michael Carroll
In 2002 a 19-year-old waste collector lived every working man’s dream when he won the equivalent of $15.4 million in the U.K. National Lottery. Michael Carroll promptly began blowing his winnings on houses, cars and piles of cocaine. A mere four years later, however, he was taking out loans to pay for, as he put it, his “party lifestyle.” And come 2010 he was back in his old job.
8. Jose Cua-Toc
In 2010 day laborer Jose Cua-Toc thought his life was finally about to change when he won over $750,000 in the lottery. The trouble was, Cua-Toc was an illegal immigrant. To play it safe, then, he asked his boss to cash the prize in for him. But, you guessed it, his boss then promptly pocketed all of the dough. In a happy ending, however, Cua-Toc took his crooked employer to court and won the money back. Result!
7. Americo Lopes
New Jersey construction worker Americo Lopes was in charge of buying a ticket for a group of work buddies. But when Lopes discovered that he was holding on to a ticket worth $38.5 million, he kept it a secret and then quietly quit his job. It didn’t take long for his co-workers to figure out what had happened, though. They took Lopes to court, too, and he was ordered to share the winnings with what we can only assume are now his ex-friends.
6. John Ross Jr.
In 2012 John Ross Jr.’s life changed forever when he won $2 million on the lottery. The then 29-year-old said the first thing he would do would be to buy a car and claimed that he hoped his win would keep him out of prison. However, just months later he was arrested for helping a woman steal, hide and repair a Honda Civic.
5. Sharon Tirabassi
If you’re used to living in poverty, coming into a huge influx of cash can prove very tricky. Sharon Tirabassi grew up living in shelters, and when she won $10 million in 2004, she proceeded to blow through it in only ten years. Among her most extravagant purchases was a tricked-out Cadillac Escalade that wouldn’t look out of place on Pimp My Ride. She’s now back to working to support her children.
4. William “Bud” Post
When some lottery winners go down, they go down spectacularly. William “Bud” Post won $16.2 million in 1988, and at the time he had a measly $2.46 in his bank account. He then immediately began throwing money around, buying a twin-engine airplane and a mansion. Then his girlfriend sued him for his winnings. Oh, and his brother hired a hitman to have him and his wife killed. And while the would-be hit failed, in the end Post ended up broke once again.
3. Lou Eisenberg
Former light bulb repairman Lou Eisenberg became nationally known when he won $5 million in 1981. He was 53 at the time. However, come the age of 81 he was living in a mobile home and on Social Security. Eisenberg spent his winnings on exotic travel, an ocean-view property and the ladies he loved. Which, if you think about it, might not be quite so stupid after all.
2. Ian Galtress
Poor Ian Galtress. He beat the unbelievable odds to win… and then never saw a bit of the prize. Galtress, an engineer, picked up two tickets in the EuroMillions draw – one for himself and one for his girlfriend. Unfortunately, he lost his ticket. What’s more, he came to believe that it had been a winner, as its number was one off that shown on his girlfriend’s ticket, and it would have been worth $1.3 million. Galtress was deeply traumatized by getting so close to winning and said that the experience had ruined his life. Understandably!
1. Billie Bob Harrell Jr.
Perhaps one of the saddest lotto tales is that of Billie Bob Harrell Jr. This preacher and Home Depot bag boy came into $31 million after winning the Texas Lottery in 1997. Unfortunately for him, he was soon swarmed with people happy to take advantage of his kindness and his money. As a result, he was penniless in two years and, moreover, tragically took his own life in 1999.