Winners Who Lost All

Here are some lottery winners who escaped with their lives (some of them just barely) — but lost everything they had.

  • David Lee Edwards in happier times. (For more details, click on the link to read my separate article.)

    David Lee Edwards — had $27 million. Admirably, David kicked off his life as a multimillionaire by declaring, “I want this money to last, for me, for my future wife, for my daughter and future generations.”
    Over the next 5 years, however, he lost every single penny. His wife left him, and he eventually died broke and alone.
  • bud-postBud Post — won $16 million. Survived his brother hiring a hit man to kill him. Ended up after about 10 years living on a $450 a month disability check.
    Quote: “Everybody dreams of winning money, but nobody realizes the nightmares that come out of the woodwork, or the problems.”
  • lara-robert-griffithLara and Robert Griffiths — won $3 million. At first, they were making $200,000 a year just off of the interest. But seven years later, they’d lost it all and their home was up for sale due to their debts. This, in spite of their having consulted financial advisors.
    Before the lottery win, Lara & Robert hardly ever argued. Now their marriage is over. Lara says the lottery win destroyed it. In March 2013, Robert reportedly had $10 in available cash.
  • janite-leeJanite Lee — won $18 million. Became a big donor to political causes, which gained her access to important politicians including Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton. Has a reading room at Washington University (St. Louis) named after her. Filed for bankruptcy 8 years after winning, with $700 in cash left, owing $700,000 more than her assets.
  • Terry Dill — bought a lottery ticket on his 18th birthday and won close to $4 million. Terry was determined to handle the money responsibly. So instead of spending freely, he married his high school sweetheart and invested.
    This worked great at first. But then his investments turned bad. As a result, he lost everything and found himself unable even to support his wife and 3 children. Several times he considered suicide, but his family responsibilities helped keep him from checking out. Eventually, he ended up in a good job making a decent living.
  • sharon-tirabassiSharon Tirabassi — won $10.5 million Canadian. After 10 years,
    almost all of the money was gone, and Sharon had returned to riding
    the bus to work again
    . Her husband Vinny said of the experience, “Money doesn’t buy you happiness. It caused her a lot of headaches. She lost a lot of friends, a lot of family.”
  • michael-carrollMichael Carroll — had $15 million. Lost his marriage and family along with his fortune. Flat broke after 8 years. He then attempted suicide twice, at age 28. He was saved from one attempt (at hanging himself) when a friend discovered him. Ended up working as a garbageman.
  • callie-rogersCallie Rogers — won $3 million. Developed a drug habit and attempted suicide 3 times. Went broke and got a job as a maid. Said she was happier after she’d lost it all.
  • werner-bruniWerner Bruni — Switzerland’s original “Lottery King.” Bruni was 43 years old when he won. After taxes (which were heavy), he still had $1.5 million cash, free and clear, in today’s dollars. Invested in real estate. Six years later, he was bankrupt.
  • denise-rossi-4Denise Rossi — won $1.3 million, and lost every penny just 2 years later. Actually, what happened is that she and her husband Thomas had an apparently close marriage. Then one day she shocked Thomas by demanding a divorce.
    Two years later, he discovered the reason: She had won the lottery, and carefully hid it all from him (in divorce court as well) in order to keep all the money for herself. This was in California, where what husbands and wives own is “community property.” He took her to court, and the judge found she had acted with malice. As a result, he ordered every cent turned over to Rossi’s ex-husband.
    (Note: Elsewhere on the web, mentions of lottery winner Denise Rossi show a dark-haired woman with a green scarf. That’s not her.)
  • lou-eisenbergLou Eisenberg — took a $5 million payout over 20 years. After he cashed the last check, he was broke. Ended up living in a mobile home on $250 a week pension and social security.
  • curtis-sharpCurtis Sharp — like Eisenberg, Curtis Sharp took a $5 million payout over 20 years, with similar results. Continued to work for 8 years after hitting the lottery — which turned out to be his best move, because it gave him a pension.
    Unlike so many, Sharp’s story has a semi-happy ending: He reinvented himself by finding God, moving to Tennessee, and becoming a Baptist minister. He ended up living in a small house off of his pension and social security, preaching at a church near his home, and doing prison ministry.
    Quote: “A fool and his money are soon parted, and honey, I acted a fool.”
  • jay-sommersJay Sommers — won $5.8 million at the young age of 20. Lost it within 5 years and took a job doing pizza delivery. 10 years after that, he said, “I’m still bitter and I’ll be bitter the rest of my life. I think I’d be further along today if I had never won.
  • tothsAlex & Rhoda Toth — had $13 million, lost every penny. Much of the loss was due to legal fees from lawsuits. Ended up living in a tiny trailer with the electricity supplied by a line from their car. Tried to evade taxes as well. Alex died while awaiting trial, and Rhoda went to jail. Rhoda says, “The winning ticket ruined my life.
  • viv-nicholsonViv Nicholson — English housewife whose husband won about $7 million in today’s money on sports back in 1961. Viv infamously vowed to “spend, spend, spend” — and did. Her husband died in a car crash, and she was penniless just 4 years later. Viv became a stripper, a drunkard, attempted suicide, spent time in a mental institution, and eventually ended up a Jehovah’s Witness living on a meager pension and irregular work.
  • shefik-tShefik Tallmadge — won $6.7 million. Some bad business deals and inexperienced management of his money eventually brought him to bankruptcy.
  • leroy-fickLeroy Fick — won $2 million, which came out at almost exactly $1 million cash after taxes. By about a year later, Fick was nearly broke, having lost much of his fortune through investments recommended to him by relatives and friends.
    Quotes: “I had so many pressures coming on me from all directions, I snapped, I guess.” “I thought people would love me if I helped them out some… They all turned on me and that was it.”
  • victoria-zellVictoria Zell — shared an $11 million jackpot with her husband. Spent some of her money on drugs. Convicted of killing one friend and paralyzing another while driving under the influence, Zell was reportedly penniless 6 years after winning.
  • farrell-lavalleeFarrell Lavallee. Won a “Set for Life” $1 million scratcher prize. Spent the million in 13 months, on a home, cars, trips, drugs, and alcohol. Ended up in a psych ward, then found a better life in a faith-based organization, making meals for homeless people and counseling others regarding their addictions.
  • Suzanne Mullins — won $4.2 million in Virginia, ended up 11 years later deep in debt to a company that loans money using future payments as collateral. Much of Mullins’ money went to help a terminally ill son-in-law who had no health insurance. It was reported that she had no assets left with which to cover her debts.
  • thomas-papworthThomas Papworth. An ambulance driver who won around $10 million in the UK lottery. Thomas gave about $3 million away, leaving him with roughly $7 million left. He moved to Spain’s Costa del Sol, where he made friends with one John Fay. Mr. Fay was obviously wealthy as well, and very generous — he went so far as to give his friend Thomas a Land Rover, among other gifts.
     After some time, Thomas suddenly found himself arrested on trumped-up drugs and weapons charges. Advised to plead guilty, he spent 2 years in jail. Meanwhile, his friend John was looking after Thomas’ real estate investments — or so he thought. Thomas had actually been cleverly manipulated from the beginning by Fay, who was in reality a criminal named Joe Wilkins. Wilkins had managed to get joint control over Thomas’ bank account and other property, and when Thomas was released from jail he found he’d been taken, literally, for every penny of his $7 million and every possession he had, except for a modest house back in England.
  • robert-moffatRobert Moffat. Was happily married when he won the equivalent of about $1.3 million US in Scotland. Lost his marriage and his fortune. Was falsely sued for paternity by an ex-girlfriend. Ended up too broke to pay a drunk-driving fine.
    Quote: “After my win, everyone was chasing me for money, even the banks… If I could go back to my life I would. I wish I’d never won this, to be honest.”
  • dayalin-maslamoneyDayalin Maslamoney. South African policeman who won over $1 million US, then quit his job. His wife soon initiated divorce proceedings and got a court order to stop his spending. When their divorce was eventually finalized, Dayalin received about $250,000, which he invested into a chicken franchise, losing every penny. At last word he was reportedly flat broke, had been arrested and charged with stealing around $25, and was suing his ex-wife.
     Quote: “Money ruined my life and my marriage. I would never wish for the Lotto again.”
  • jason-canterburyJason Canterbury. Another South African, who won roughly $1 million US (today’s dollars) at age 19. He spent his cash, started dealing drugs, and was arrested and convicted for the murder of an associate over a drug money disagreement. Sentenced to 28 years in prison.
  • john-mcguinness2John McGuinness. This father of four won about $15 million, ended up bankrupt and $3 million in debt, looking for a job, with both his home and car repossessed. It seems to have been his purchase of a sports team that did him in.
  • The German Thief. An unnamed father of three, in Germany, a tile installer by trade, who won about $1 million at age 43. After 6 years the money was gone, and — not wanting to go on welfare, and not wanting it to be known that he was now broke — he turned to a string of thefts and robberies. Was arrested and sentenced for his crimes. Quote: “I don’t know where the money went.”
  • lawrence-candlishLawrence Candlish — won $13.5 million in today’s money, tax-free, back in 1997. Invested in business, but was flat broke by 2009. Candlish’s father hanged himself in the home Candlish bought for him. Candlish and his sister later pled guilty to fraudulently receiving government benefits after the lottery win, and were given suspended sentences.
  • charles-riddleCharles Riddle — Perhaps the original American lottery disaster story. Riddle was a restaurant guy who won $4 million in today’s dollars, at age 25, way back in 1975. Before long, his marriage fell apart, and he had gotten involved with drugs, booze and gambling. Pled guilty to dealing cocaine, and served time in prison. Got out and ran a restaurant until his death in 2008.
    Quote: “I honestly wish I’d never won the damn thing… If it weren’t for the lottery, I’d be just fine.”
  • John Roberts — security guard who won about $5 million, lost it in roughly 3 years. It went largely through bad investments, including the purchase of a pub that never had his name on the deed. He also lost his marriage. And his wife took the 5 children with her, saying “no chance” to his pleas for reconciliation. Ended up $30,000 in debt and living in a trailer.
  • David and Colleen Taylor — won $10 million, lost every penny along with their marriage. Also had a series of tragedies and misfortunes. When normal legal channels failed, they hired some private “muscle” to evict former friends from their olive farm. Gunfire resulted, with one man killed and two wounded. The tenant family (one of whom ended with a long prison sentence for the killing) sued. Later, their 15-year-old grandson Joshua was accidentally shot dead by their similarly-aged son.

    Quote: “We used to be a close family but there’s no money left and no family left. The win has destroyed us.”
  • lee-ryanLee Ryan — won the equivalent of $10 million. Lost it all through heavy spending and bad investments. Ended up living on the street for two years before settling into an apartment.
  • willie-hurt-2Willie Hurt — Unemployed welder in Michigan who hit a $3.1 million jackpot in 1989, at age 48. He received about $117,000 each year, which never lasted more than 3 months. After winning, he took up using crack cocaine. Within 2 years was in jail for the motel-room murder of a girlfriend. Reports said he killed her out of anger because she couldn’t find the last of their cocaine.
  • Marva Wilson — won $2 million in the Missouri Lottery. She consulted a financial advisor who set her up with an annuity that would’ve given her $30,000 a year for the rest of her life. However, two years later she was persuaded to cash in the annuity by a “friend” who was giving her financial advice. The “friend” swindled her out of her assets, leaving her broke.
  • romeo-silerioRomeo Silerio. Filipino native who couldn’t afford to bring his wife to the US until he won $6.9 million in the Virginia lottery. He wisely chose the 20-year annuity, and vowed to stash $100,000 a year in CDs. Unfortunately, he failed to stick with the plan. Not only did he stop the saving, he and his wife also “invested” a large sum with two women who squandered it all. After the last check, he was broke, divorced and in jail for failure to pay ex-spouse and child support.
    Quote: “I wish I hadn’t won the lottery… The money broke up my marriage…. The money ruined my life.”
  • evelyn-adamsEvelyn Adams Basehore — won the lottery TWICE, for a total of $5.4 million. Went bust and moved into a trailer park. Ended up working two jobs to make ends meet.
    Quote: “I wish I had the chance to do it all over again. I’d be much smarter about it now.”

All of these lottery winners had the opportunity to stay wealthy for the rest of their lives. And all of them had good intentions of keeping their wealth.

But in spite of their intentions, each one of them lost it all. And more. Many lost their family, friends, and their happiness.

And this page doesn’t even mention many who may still have some or all of their winnings, but who would tell you, “Winning the lottery ruined my life.”

“Of the thousands of lottery winners I knew, a few were happy and a few lived happily ever after. But you would be blown away to see how many winners wish they’d never won.” — Edward Ugel, author of “Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions

There’s a better way. You don’t have to lose everything. And you don’t have to wish you’d never won.

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