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10 Lottery Winners’ Stories: Don’t Make The Same Mistakes They Did

Category: Financial News

Everyone wants to win the lottery. Whenever jackpots get to record breaking highs you and everyone in your family goes out and buys several numbers hoping and dreaming that one of the tickets will change your life forever. While most of us will never experience the financial bliss that is winning several million dollars, there are some people out there who have had the luxury of this vast amount of free money. So what are their lives like now? Who have they become? Have all of their hopes and dreams been fulfilled?

As it turns out, more than a few jackpot winners have struggled with coming into their winnings, and some of them have simply lost everything. Just in case you’re ever fortunate enough to win the lottery, familiarize yourself with these 10 mistakes and mishaps that lottery winners have gone through. Some of these winners made silly mistakes while  others found their winning tickets to be deadly:

10. $750,000 – Handing the ticket over to a friend


In 2010 undocumented immigrant Jose Antonia Cua-Toc purchased a winning lottery ticket in Georgia. The ticket was worth $750,000, but due to Cua-Toc’s undocumented status he was concerned about claiming his winnings in fear that he would be deported back to Guatemala if found out or that he would not even be able to claim the winnings. To avoid deportation, Cua-Toc gave the winning lottery ticket to his boss Erick Cervantes under the agreement that Cervantes would pick up the money for him. Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) this plan backfired on Cua-Toc and Cervantes claimed the money for himself, saying that Cua-Toc had merely purchased the ticket for his friend. Luckily, in 2012 courts ruled in Cua-Toc’s favor after viewing surveillance camera footage of the ticket’s purchase.

So if you win the lottery, remember to claim the ticket winnings yourself and consider investing in a lawyer! You’ll have the funds, after all.

9. $1 million – Throwing the ticket in the garbage

We’ve all accidentally thrown away checks or a few dollars on accident, but one lottery winning couple accidentally threw away their winning ticket; a nightmarish experience. One day during a simple trip to the supermarket, Joanne and Joseph Zagmi purchased a scratch-off lottery ticket. After returning home and unloading their groceries, the ticket remained in the bag and the couple threw it away. By some miracle they remembered that they had thrown the ticket away and the next day dug it out of the dumpster. The saying goes that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and this is one piece of “garbage” that won the Zagami family one million dollars.

So remember: check your bags to make sure they’re completely empty before tossing them out!

8. $1 million – Buying a ticket and forgetting about it


Keep track of the lottery tickets that you buy, otherwise you might end up like Ron Yurcus of Illinois. Yurcus purchased a lottery ticket back in August of 2012 to forget about it promptly after. It wasn’t until three months later in November that Yurcus was cleaning his desk when he uncovered a pile of tickets and decided to check the numbers. As it turns out, one of the tickets was worth $1 million dollars—which he had won three months before. If there’s any lesson to be learned from Yurcus’ mistake, it’s worth picking up around the house every once and awhile!

7. $2 million – Stealing cars

Some people have problems that can’t be solved by winning the lottery—even issues having to do with money. This was the case with John Ross Jr. of California who was accused of assisting in a car theft in 2012. As if car theft weren’t strange enough on its own, Ross had won $2 million in the California lottery just a few months earlier. Immediately after being announced as the winner, Ross said that he planned on purchasing his own car, because at 29 he had never owned one. Ironically, Ross found himself behind bars for assisting an auto theft just three months after his winning the lottery.  Note to self: try not to waste any future lottery winnings on the lawyer fees after your car theft.

6. $5.4 million – Gambling the winnings away

Winning the lottery is lucky enough; nobody would ever think that a lottery winner would go so far as to gamble most of their winnings away. Evelyn Adams—a woman in New Jersey who won the lottery twice in the 1980s seemed to have all of the luck in the world. That is, until the luck ran out. After winning a total of $5.4 million in lottery money, Adams lost most of her money pushing her luck in Atlantic City. That’s not to say that Adams was selfish with her winnings, she was generous with the jackpot and gave money away to anyone who asked her for a little help. Today all of Evelyn Adams’ lottery money has dwindled away, but she certainly lived it up while she could!

5. $15 million – Opening a demolition derby


Many people would invest in houses, cars, vacations, and education if they were to win the lottery. Michael Carroll had much bigger plans for his $15 million jackpot, when he won a British lottery jackpot in 2002. Carroll decided to use his money to throw demolition derby parties for his new cars. A demolition derby—for those of us who can’t afford to spend money on such a wasteful sport—is a competition where drivers smash their cars into one another. By the end of a derby there is only one car left running, and there’s nothing left but smashed up parts. In addition to wrecking cars, Carroll wasted his money away on drugs and women and even landed himself in jail a couple of times. Carroll lived large while the money lasted. Unfortunately, when you spend your entire lottery winnings on smashing up cars there won’t be a lasting flow of cash in the long run.

Is it just me, or do demolition derbies seem particularly symbolic for Carroll’s own wreckage of his millions?

4. $15 million – Getting your ticket stolen

Some people are in it to win it when it comes to winning the lottery, buying tickets every week for years. This was the case for Etta May Urquhart who put her money into the California lottery for 18 years. Similar to the case of Cua-Toc’s mistake of giving the ticket away, Urquhart was so excited about finally winning $15 million that she gave the ticket to her son Ronny Orender to sign the ticket and claim the jackpot on her behalf. Urquhart’s son took the ticket and claimed the money for himself. Urquhart successfully took her son to court and sued him for fraud and abuse for his theft of her winnings.

Again, there’s never a good person to trust with your lottery winnings: not even family.

3. $31 million – You can’t buy happiness


Billie Bob Harrell Jr. of Texas won a $31 million jackpot in 1997. Harrell made a series of investments to improve his family members’ lives. In fact, he made a lot of purchases that anyone who won the lottery would probably make: houses, cars, charitable donations, etc. Yet in only months Harrell’s spending habits had gone above and beyond a simple bigger home and a couple of cars, and his friends and family say that he went too far with his wallet and found himself broke in less than two years. The money stress that winning the lottery caused Harrell eventually led to them man committing suicide.

The lottery will buy you a lot of fancy things, but it’s clear that winners have never been able to buy themselves happiness no matter the number of zeroes in their bank account.

2. $315 million – Strip club robbery

2002 was a big year for lottery winners to make catastrophic mistakes with their jackpots. Jack Whittaker of West Virginia was the winner of $315 from the Powerball lottery, and in a similarly destructive manner as Britain’s Carroll’s demolition derbies; Whittaker lost much of his money at strip clubs. Whittaker was already a wealthy man before winning the lottery, and while it’s not exactly rare to find the rich dropping big bucks at strip clubs Whittaker was having an especially frivolous time with the strippers—which proved to be a risky mistake on his part. About a year after winning the Powerball Whittaker was at a strip club in West Virginia carrying a suitcase of $545,000 “because he could”. Stupidly, Whittaker left the suitcase of cash in his car and thieves broke in to steal it. In a similar incident, the managers of a strip club were charged with attempting to drug Whittaker and steal his suitcase of money.

1. $16.2 million – When your brother hires a hitman


One of the mistakes in this article has been that you can’t trust those closest to you—which was also the case for William “Bud” Post III who won $16.2 in 1998. His brother tried to hire a hitman to murder both Post and his wife so that he could take the winnings for himself. This assassination attempt didn’t succeed, but Post continued to have a difficult life until he died in 2006. Before his death he ended up declaring bankruptcy, he was forced to give $5 million to his landlady, and he invested in a business that flopped.

While his brother went to jail and did not succeed in killing Post for his money, that doesn’t mean that the rest of Post’s life was smooth sailing. After all, as we’ve seen from these unfortunate fortune winners, winning the lottery doesn’t guarantee an easy life.

Nestor Gilbert

By Nestor Gilbert

Senior writer for FinancesOnline. If he is not writing about the booming SaaS and B2B industry, with special focus on developments in CRM and business intelligence software spaces, he is editing manuscripts for aspiring and veteran authors. He has compiled years of experience editing book titles and writing for popular marketing and technical publications.

Andrea Suzanna Gutierrez says:

i love these stories and will keep continuing to read them if i can-i have a neighbor named Miguel who won the Lottery 30 yrs ago-and was abosolutely wealthy-$11 Million Dollar Winner-but unfortunattely like many people he spent generously and extravagantly on his relatives-and he warned me not to spend so freely on relative-and today he is broke and working,and an alcoholic

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