Winning the lottery jackpot is lucky for some, tragic for others

Dave and Erica Harrig stayed true to their values ​​when they won a jackpot of over $61 million in 2013. That made all the difference.

The couple from Gretna, Nebraska, a community on the outskirts of Omaha where Dave Harrig is now a volunteer firefighter, afforded themselves a new home, vintage cars and a few ocean cruisers after both quit their jobs.

But nine years later, they are still living much as they always have, staying in their community, keeping in touch with church, family and friends, and teaching their children to work hard to earn their living. life despite any financial windfall that may come their way.

Many other winners weren’t so lucky, suffering personal setbacks and lawsuits or falling victim to scams. The latest big jackpot winner came on Friday, when a single ticket sold in Illinois matched the numbers for a Mega Millions prize of $1.337 billion. Illinois is among the states where winners over $250,000 can choose not to reveal their name.

Dave Harrig, an Air Force veteran who worked in aircraft maintenance, says keeping things simple likely saved him and his family from the kind of hassle and tragedy that befell others. big winners.

Almost overnight, the Harrig family’s mailbox was filled with letters full of stories of bad luck: sick children, lost jobs, burned down houses.

Dave Harrig said they ignored them all and focused on their own families and charities.

They didn’t even touch the bulk of their winnings until just a few years ago when they dipped into it to fund a new firefighting museum in Gretna which will open soon.

“We have nicer things, a bigger house and more than we ever had in the past. But we are the same, and my wife and I check on each other,” said Dave Harrig, encouraging future lottery winners to invest wisely, choose a national investment adviser over a local adviser, and avoid advisers. trying to sell capital. some products.

They ignored false rumors circulating about them suggesting his wife ran off with a doctor and he had a lawyer girlfriend. Their four children endured teasing at school.

“We are still learning, but it has helped keep working as a team,” he said of himself and his wife.

He acknowledged the struggles of some past winners, saying the experience of winning a jackpot “can really heighten your character and any addiction”.

The late Andrew Whittaker Jr. of West Virginia suffered lawsuits and personal setbacks after claiming a record $315 million Powerball jackpot on Christmas Eve in 2002.

At the time, it was the largest US lottery jackpot won by a single ticket. People pestered him so much with demands for money that he was repeatedly quoted saying he wished he had torn up the ticket.

Before dying of natural causes in 2020 at age 72, he battled alcohol and gambling issues and experienced a series of personal tragedies, including the death of his granddaughter.

Winning the lottery brought other kinds of headaches to Manuel Franco, of West Allis, Wisconsin, who won a $768 million lottery jackpot in April 2019.

When he was just 24, Franco enthusiastically held a press conference to discuss his victory, but later reportedly went into hiding amid harassment from strangers and the media.

The Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin started warning people in 2021 about messages from scammers claiming to be the multi-million dollar winner.

Using Franco’s name, the scammers sent phishing text messages, social media messages, phone calls and emails to obtain personal information, telling recipients they had been chosen to receive email. ‘silver.

The BBB said the scammers got more than $13,000 from the people they deceived, including people in Alabama and Colorado.

Despite the problems faced by winners, lottery officials favor public identification of winners to inspire public confidence in the games.

This is largely because some past drawings have been faked. Former Multi-State Lottery Association director of information security Eddie Tipton pleaded guilty in 2017 to manipulating software so he could predict winning numbers on certain days of the year. He and his brother rigged jackpots in numerous states for a combined payout of around $24 million.

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AP researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report.

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