Money From Hell: Biggest Lottery Losers and their Curse

Money From Hell: Biggest Lottery Losers and their Curse

Numbers show that around 70% of lottery winners go broke and a third declare bankruptcy.

But, how do these lucky winners end up losing everything?

Here’s our pick for the biggest lottery users, whose lives turned upside down and the reason behind their downfall.

Top 10 Biggest Lottery Losers

Andrew Jack Whittaker Jr.

  • Who he was when he won: American businessman in the construction industry
  • Lottery won: 2002 Powerball Jackpot
  • Winnings:  $315 million

After winning the largest single-ticket U.S. lottery jackpot at the time and becoming a part of one of the biggest wins in gambling history, Whittaker Jr. became an instant celebrity at 55. 

However, the businessman’s life became rife with scandals, tragedies, and lawsuits after he claimed his prize. His wife left him, his 17-year-old granddaughter overdosed, and his Virginia home burnt down, among other things. 

These series of personal setbacks made him the most famous example of the ‘curse’ of the lottery and led him to declare, on numerous occasions, that he wished he never won. 

Lara and Roger Griffith

  • Who they were when they won: Global accounts manager and a performing arts teacher
  • Lottery won: 2015 National Lottery
  • Winnings: £1.83 million

Roger Griffiths and his wife Lara scooped an amount of money that could have set them up for life. After winning nearly £2 million, they both quit their jobs and started living the high life– they bought an expensive house, exotic cars, designer clothes, and accessories.

The two split up after 14 years of marriage and a series of bad spending decisions that left them penniless and plenty of rows over how they handled what they had won.

David Lee Edwards

  • Who he was when he won: Ex-felon from Kentucky
  • Lottery won: 2001 Powerball Jackpot
  • Winnings: $27 million

It took five years for Kentucky resident David Lee Edwards to spend a total of $27 million. 

Edwards, who spent 5 years in prison before he purchased his winning ticket, and his wife spent the fortune on the common goodies that often cost many lottery winners their millionaire status – high-end cards, mansions, and even a plane. They spent $3 million in the first three months and $12 million by the end of that year. 

Edwards, who struggled with drug addiction, died broke and alone in hospice care at 58.

Jeffrey Dampier – Murdered by His Mistress

  • Who he was when he won: Security guard
  • Lottery won: 1996 Illinois State Lottery
  • Winnings: $20 million

Jeffrey Dampier worked as a security guard until he won the Illinois State Lottery in 1996 – a ticket that changed his life drastically. After he and his wife filed a divorce, (and his wife got half of his money) Dampier remarried and moved to Florida where he opened a gourmet popcorn shop. 

He gave millions to family members and friends and was killed after he decided to cut off his wife’s sister, whom he had a secret affair with. The woman, Victoria Jackson, and her boyfriend lured Dampier to a meeting and killed him.

Michael Carroll

  • Who he was when he won: Binman
  • Lottery won: 2002 National Lottery
  • Winnings:   £9.7 million

Carroll was only 19 years old when he won the National Lottery Jackpot with a £1 ticket he bought while working as a binman in Norfolk.

The media dubbed him “Lotto Lout” as Carrol tore through his fortune on cars, jewellery, drug-fueled partying, and other materialistic excesses. He was bankrupt and on benefits by 2013. To his credit, Carroll gave almost half of his winnings away (including to family members).

As of 2019, he was working as a skint coalman, seven days a week, and telling the media that he is “happier,” but that he doesn’t regret how he spent his money.

William “Bud” Post III

  • Who he was when he won: Worked different temporary jobs 
  • Lottery won: 1988 Pennsylvania Lottery jackpot
  • Winnings:  $16.2 million

The day he won the lottery, Post had a little over $2 in his bank account. He reportedly pawned a ring for $40 and gave his current girlfriend cash to buy 40 lottery tickets, one of which was the winning ticket.

Post’s luck didn’t last long. His brother paid a hitman to kill him for the inheritance and his ex-girlfriend sued him for part of his winnings and won. Still, the reason why he lost most of his money was his lavish spending. Post bought cars, boats, houses, and a twin-engine plane, even though he wasn’t licensed to fly.

Sharon Tirabassi

  • Who she was when she won: Single mother
  • Lottery won: 2004 Canadian Lotto Super 7
  • Winnings:  $10.5 million

Tirabassi had seen some rough shelter days and as a single mother raising three kids in a rented apartment, she was one of the now-broke lottery winners that deserved a pinch of luck. 

Like other lottery gambling losers, Turabassi spent some of her money on cars and vacations and was generous with her winnings– she gave millions to her friends and family and even bought small apartments and rented them to families in need. 

By 2013, her winnings were gone and Tirabassi was riding a bus to her part-time job where she worked to support her 6 children. 

Jay Sommers – Loser Of The Lottery Race

  • Who he was when he won: Professional stock racing driver
  • Lottery won: 1988 Michigan Lottery
  • Winnings:  $5.8 million

Sommers was only 20 years old when he won the Michigan State Lottery. He settled for an annual income of $290,000 and used his winnings to buy equipment and race cars from NASCAR team owner Hoss Ellington. 

Sommers was eventually convinced by his high-school friend John Paganes to allow him to manage his winnings for the next 10 years. Paganes promised to send Sommers $57,000 a year, but he eventually lost the money. Sommers sued and won an $887,000 settlement, which he used to pay off his debts. 

Evelyn Adams

  • Who she was when she won: Compulsive gambler
  • Lottery won: 1985 and 1986 New Jersey State Lottery
  • Winnings:  $5.4 million (total)

Evelyn Adams won the lottery not once but twice, winning $3.9 million the first time and $1.4 the second, which made her the first person in the history of the New Jersey Lottery to win a million-dollar jackpot more than once.

Like so many of her fellow lottery winners, Adams couldn’t overcome her old habits. She was an avid gambler who spent too much on materialistic objects, gave too many gifts to family members, and made too many bad investments. 

By 2012, Adams gambled most of her money away and moved into a trailer, making her one of the top 10 biggest lottery losers of all time.

Amanda Clayton

  • Who she was when she won: The lottery winner that collected welfare benefits
  • Lottery won: 2011 “Make Me Rich!” game show
  • Winnings:  $1 million

Clayton won a jackpot in the Michigan Lottery-sponsored “Make Me Rich!” game show in 2011. But her stroke of luck was not the reason why so many Americans learned her name.

Clayton made headlines after it was revealed that she continued to use food stamps and state Medical Aid, despite winning $735,000 (after taxes).

Clayton was charged with two felony counts of welfare fraud and sentenced to six months of probation. A year after she won the lottery, she was found dead in her apartment, from alleged drug abuse.

Bottom Line

The odds of winning the lottery are pretty slim, but that doesn’t stop most of us from dreaming of having our lives changed overnight by a big chunk of cash. But, coming into large amounts of money, especially publicly, has its downfalls.

Some of the biggest lottery losers faced inexplicable tragedies and even attempts at their life. In most cases, however, the reason behind their financial losses was either because they didn’t know how to manage their fortune or didn’t care to learn.

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