There are millions or – with the current Mega Millions jackpot – over a billion reasons people play lotteries, but some of the biggest winners have lost everything, including their lives.
Many people who bought tickets to the record-breaking $ 1.6 billion Mega Millions draw on Tuesday may dream of the lavish life they will lead if they win.
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But some observers are wary, knowing that unintended negative consequences can follow big lottery wins.
“It creates a ton of problems for lottery winners,” Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of financial planning site LearnVest.com, told ABC News in 2016, when the Powerball jackpot hit $ 1.58 billion. . “We have seen everything from thefts to the murders of people who have won lotteries.”
However, some state lottery operators have stated that such examples of problems with windfall lottery winnings are rare.
While “there are these examples” of the lives of winners in turmoil, “they are rare,” said Carole Bober Gentry, spokesperson for the Maryland Lottery and Mega Millions.
“The vast majority of the winners of these big jackpots go on and live very good lives,” Gentry told ABC News on Monday. “I think the vast majority you don’t hear about it because there is no story to tell.”
Here are some cases of targeted lottery winners after winning jackpots.
Jeffrey Dampier Jr.
Dampier and his then-wife won an estimated $ 20 million Illinois Lottery jackpot in 1996.
After their divorce, he married Crystal Jackson. The couple moved to Tampa, Florida, where they invested a portion of their earnings, according to ABC Tampa affiliate WFTS-TV.
He was kidnapped in 2005 by his sister-in-law Victoria Jackson and her boyfriend, Nathaniel Jackson. They were arrested three days after Dampier was found dead in Nathaniel Jackson’s van, WFTS reported.
Both were found with large sums of money on them.
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“Last night in Jacksonville, Mr. Nathaniel Jackson was found with approximately $ 1,500 in his pocket. Where the rest of that money is, we don’t know, ”Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson JD Callaway said at the time.
Both were sentenced to life in prison for capital felony, among other charges.
In one case where an office pool grossed millions, Sandra Hayes shared a $ 224 million Powerball jackpot with a dozen colleagues in 2006.
She said, according to the Associated Press, that this resulted in a lump sum of $ 6 million, but also led to the transformation of friends into enemies.
“I had to endure the greed and the need of the people, trying to get you to give them your money. It caused a lot of emotional pain, ”Hayes told the AP. “These are the people you loved deep down, and they turn into vampires trying to suck my life off.”
Mack Metcalf and Virginia Merida
A couple who won a $ 34 million Kentucky jackpot in 2000 ended up living separate lives in separate mansions before their deaths.
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Mack Metcalf and his ex-wife Virginia Merida shared the jackpot but divorced in 2001. The Sun Sentinel reported that he bought a Mount Vernon-type mansion in Kentucky and that she bought one near the Ohio River. He bought horses and she brought home stray cats, the newspaper reported.
He died of complications from alcoholism in 2003 at the age of 45, the newspaper reported. Later that same year, Merida’s partially decomposed body was found in her bed. There was no sign of foul play, officials said.
He went from janitor to multimillionaire, but was found dead three years after his victory.
Shakespeare was 47 when he won a $ 17 million Florida jackpot in 2006 and began spending or giving away a large chunk of his money over the next two years.
“I would really like to get back to my old life when I could walk the streets like a normal person without people coming in asking for money,” Shakespeare said at the time.
He then befriended a woman named Doris “Dee Dee” Moore, whom authorities claimed to have kidnapped and then killed after cheating him of his remaining money.
After the ensuing investigation, police said he was shot twice in the chest in April 2009, but was not reported missing until November of the same year. And his body was found under a 5-foot concrete slab the following January.
“From the start of our investigation, which began seven months after her disappearance, we found out that she still had Abraham Shakespeare’s cell phone and was texting her friends as well as her own cell phone being pass for Abraham, ”Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. “Good Morning America” February 4, 2010.
Moore was convicted of the murder of Shakespeare and is serving a life sentence.
Shakespeare’s death has been cited by financial advisers as a reason lottery winners should be allowed to remain anonymous.
One of Jack Whittaker’s Christmas gifts in 2002 was bigger than the rest: a $ 315 million Powerball jackpot.
In just a few years, he regretted his victory, ABC News reported.
“Since I won the lottery, I think there is no greed control,” he said. “I think if you have something, there is always someone else who wants it. I would have liked to tear up this post.
He had legal complaints against his construction company which led to a series of lawsuits, which he said resulted in drinking as a consolation.
“I just got to the point that I just couldn’t tolerate what was happening to me anymore,” he said. “I would fly off the stick and if anyone wanted to fight me, I would fight them. I did not care.
He shared his wealth with his granddaughter Brandi Bragg, which drew him unwelcome attention.
“She doesn’t want to be in charge of the money; she doesn’t want to inherit the money; she’s just looking for her next meds, ”Whittaker said. “She said, ‘Pawpaw, all I care about is drugs.’ It broke my heart.
She went missing in December 2004 and was found dead, wrapped in plastic sheeting. Her cause of death has been listed as unknown, but Whittaker believes it was due to a lottery curse.
“My granddaughter died because of the money,” he said.
A mysterious collapse that a forensic scientist later ruled to be cyanide homicide brought a criminal end to what appeared to be a story that resembled an example of the American Dream.
Khan had moved to Illinois from India and had his own dry cleaning business.
In 2012, he won $ 1 million in a scratch lottery, but died the day before a check was issued for his cash payment of $ 424,449.
At first his death was ruled of natural cause, but WFTS-TV of Tampa reported in a compilation that further tests were performed, at the request of unspecified relatives, who later determined he had a lethal dose of cyanide in his system at the time of his death.
No one has ever been charged for her death, and an estate court ruled in 2013 that his widow would receive one-third of his fortune while his daughter would receive the other two-thirds, ABC 7 reported in Chicago at the time.
“It’s a poor man’s dream,” said David Edwards after being one of two winners of a $ 295 million Powerball jackpot in 2001.
He had just been laid off from a telecom company in Florida and needed money for back surgery, so the divorced father, then 46, opted for the lump sum of $ 41.4 million. .
“I think I can manage my own money, with the help of advisers,” he told “Good Morning America” at the time.
Edwards had previously been arrested, had spent time in prison and had a history of drug use.
The Broward Palm Beach New Times reports that he spent money on a house in Palm Beach, a Lamborghini, a Lear Jet, a limousine company, a fiber optic company and three racehorses. He ended up living in a storage unit surrounded by “dirty clothes, rotten food,” according to the newspaper.
He died in a hospice in his home state of Kentucky in 2014. He was 58 years old.