Welcome to Top10Archvie! If you ever win a large sum of money, chances are you already have something in mind you’d spend it on. That’s great and all, just make sure you don’t wind up like these ten spendthrifts, failed accountants, and terrible decision makers. For this installment, we are looking at ten individuals who won big, only to blow it all in some truly interesting ways.
Andrew Jackson Whittaker Jr.
315 million dollars should last somebody an entire lifetime, especially when the winner of that fortune is a 55-year-old man who was already worth 17 million dollars. Whitaker was quick to dish out close to a 15 million dollar split between charitable donations and gifts for the woman who sold him the ticket, but that still would have left him with plenty to live on. If not for legal troubles, his frequency to strip clubs, a drinking problem, and a series of alleged robberies, the winnings could have possibly lasted. It took only 4 years for Whittaker’s winnings to be depleted, and all he has to show for his glory days is a $1.5 million lawsuit against him by Caesars Atlantic City for bounced checks used to cover gambling losses.
When friends and family get involved in anything that has to do with money, very infrequent is the ending a happy one. For construction worker America Lopes, the winner of 38.5 million dollars, the outcome was no different. Lopes and five friends would pool money together to purchase lottery tickets for years, but when they finally had winning numbers, Lopes didn’t come back to them with good news. He took the money and ran. After taxes, Lopes received a check for over 17 million dollars and quit his job citing foot surgery as the cause. When the friends found out about Lopes’ transgression, they sued and were awarded the money that was rightfully theirs. Each of the five co-workers walked away with 4 million dollars.
Billie Bob Harrell Jr.
June of 1997 could have been the best time of Billie Bob Harrell Jr.’s life, having just won a jackpot of 31 million dollars from the Texas Lotto. Billie was in a constant struggle with money, so when the annual winnings started to come through, he and his family breathed a little easier. Unfortunately, Billie made the first big mistake that most lottery winners make by quitting his job and then launching into a spending spree of a family vacation to Hawaii, hefty donations to his church, and extravagant gifts to friends and family. Apparently, $1.24 million a year wasn’t enough, so Billie sought a company to pay out his remaining winnings in a lump sum, a deal that he clearly lost out on. Shortly after his windfall, Billie’s wife left him, a fatal blow to a man that had already been defeated. Billie killed himself, because of the weight of his failed marriage and poor financial decisions.
If you can blow through $18 million in 8 years, you may be doing something wrong. Such is the case of Janite Lee, South Korean immigrant who, eight years after winning big, filed for bankruptcy. Lee’s money went all over the place, from friends asking for loans to donating $277,000 to political candidates. Lee even made a donation between $500,000 and $1 million to Washington University, putting her on the Parents’ Honor Roll as a Life Eliot Benefactor. Towards the end of her reign on top, Lee racked up nearly $1.6 million in loans to the Royal Banks of Missouri and lost over $347,000 at casinos near St. Louis.
From millionaire to cookie factory employee, Michael Carrol’s story is not too different from other disgraced lottery winners. Carol was the winner of a £9 million sum from the British lottery and, as you are likely to expect at this point, found every terrible means of blowing every last pound. Carrol turned to drugs, snorting cocaine through the casing of a real solid gold pen and partying harder than his body was used to. Surprisingly, Carrol survived his ordeal of drugs and excess, but his fortune reportedly ran out after ten years of spending. Though the money may have run out, Carrol is completely pleased with his medial job and modest possessions.
35-year-old Hamilton, Ontario resident, Sharon Tirabassi received life changing news when she found out she had won a little over $10.5 million in a local lottery. Her check from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp should have given her the ability to live comfortable for the rest of her life, but it only took about 9 years for the mother of six to find her way back to the lower working class. Sharon felt the charity bug and dished out $2.75 million to family members, purchased homes to rent out at low rates, and offered loans for business ventures. When not being charitable, she took vacations to Cancun, Florida, Las Vegas, and the Caribbean and purchased a boat, a Hummer, a Mustang, a Charger, and an Escalade. Before long, Sharon’s life of luxurious parties, exotic trips, charitable attempts, and designer clothes turned back into a life of riding the bus for part-time employment.
Nothing can come between a married couple quicker than a large sum of money, and in the case of the Roncaioli’s who won $5 million in 1995, this story is no exception. Especially when the spending of that money only involves one spouse. Ibi handled the family finances and, bringing home almost $20,000 a month as a gynecologist, her husband, Joseph, was none-the-wiser to how the money was being spent. Gambling sprees, new homes, a condo, and a glass-mirror business were just a portion of where the money started to disappear to. Over $2 million was divided between two of Ibi’s sons from other men and, before long, the money was gone. Ironically, so was Ibi, who was found dead on her couch in the family mansion. Courts determined that Joseph had killed his wife, and though the money was likely a cause, he contested not guilty during trial.
Tonda Lynn Dickerson
When you win a large sum of money like Tonda Lynn Dickerson did in 1999, you have to be smart. You’re on everybody’s radar – from the IRS to even your closest friends. After burning her Waffle House coworkers by not sharing the $5 million lump sum winnings as they had promised, Tonda Lynn decided to create an S Corp to hold the winnings, awarding her parents and siblings 51% of the stock. Despite filing a lawsuit against her claiming the oral contract, Tonda’s co-workers walked away with nothing; but the IRS was keen to take over $700,000, stating by sharing stock with her family, Tonda had gifted them the over $2 million, making that money subject to gift tax. Tonda fought hard but lost against the long arm of the taxman, her argument quite ironically mirroring the same claims she fought her Waffle House coworkers on.
Suzanne Mullins is just a regular middle-class person, like most people. Unlike the majority of us, though, she at one time had $4.2 million in her name. For a period of 11 years, Suzanne Mullins was on top – or so everyone had thought. Suzanne had allegedly been left with $1 million in medical bills from her now deceased son-in-law, after splitting the money 3-ways with her husband and daughter, the 20 annual payments of $47,778.84 weren’t coming to her fast enough. So to expedite her money, she turned to the People’s Lottery Foundation for a loan in the amount of nearly $198,000. When rules for the lotto changed in 2000 to allow for lump sum payments, Mullins took the remainder of her money and ran, halting payments to the Foundation in 2001. It took 11 years to go from a millionaire to more than $154,000 into debt.
20 years of making $156,000 per year would likely set many people up to be comfortable for quite some time, assuming they don’t make the rash decision of up and quitting their job or spending willy nilly – no punn intended. With his substantial yearly payment, Willie purchased the one thing that could console him in his times of decent wealth – crack. Hurt’s addiction spiraled out of control, leading to a divorce and a murder charge. A financial advisor may have warned Willie to take the lump sum for maximum profits, but it doesn’t take an educated economist to tell you not to blow your money on an addictive substance with no long-term benefits.