Taking home the Mega Millions jackpot is a pretty good way to set yourself up for life, but it won't solve all your problems. History is full of people who have cashed the big novelty check and then spiraled into a pit of poverty for a variety of reasons. Here are 10 winners who wound up being losers in the end.
Jack Whittaker, Jr.
Before Jack Whittaker won the largest Powerball payout in history--a whopping $315 million--he was already a millionaire, so you'd think he'd be able to handle it. Whittaker took the one-time payout option, leaving him with $115 million after taxes, but that quickly got frittered away. Jack would head to the strip club and drop $100,000 in tips on a good day. On a bad day, the bartender roofied him and stole a half million from his car. He also got sued by dozens of people, including a woman who claims he groped her at the dog track, and suffered through personal tragedy.
Former garbageman Michael Carroll became one of the most hated men in Britain in 2002 when he took home the equivalent of $14.5 million in the National Lottery. Many lottery winners try to comport themselves with some kind of dignity, but Carroll, the self-proclaimed "King of Chavs," went the other way. He bought a hideous mansion, tons of crack, Rottweilers, and many more white-trash accessories. He blew through his money at a breakneck pace, and as of 2011 was back to collecting his weekly $80 unemployment payment from the British government.
In 1988, 20-year-old Jay Sommers took home a 20 percent share of a $28.9 million jackpot. With a little under six million bucks burning a hole in his pocket, Jay went out and spent the cash on a fleet of awesome cars. Unfortunately, nobody told him that the IRS expects a cut of lottery winnings, and when it was time to file his 1040 he found himself in the hole. Jay then hired a friend to manage his money, only to lose the rest of it in bad investments. When he was last heard from, he was back to delivering pizza.
Lansing, Mich. resident Willie Hurt found his life transformed in 1989 when he raked in a $3.1 million jackpot. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good transformation. Before his win, he was a pillar of his community, happily married with three beautiful kids. But once he had a virtually unlimited amount of money, he decided to spend it on crack cocaine and smoked it all away. Within two years he was divorced, lost custody of his kids and charged with attempted murder.
Another lottery winner who didn't really need the cash, Ibi Roncaoli was the wife of a successful Toronto gynecologist who pulled in a staggering $5 million jackpot in 1991. One would think that things would be all cupcakes and pap smears from then on, but Ibi was a mean drunk and a profligate spender. She paid $2 million in hush money to the father of her illegitimate child and blew even more at casinos and on booze. Her husband had no idea that her spending was so out of control, and when he found out she'd bankrupted the family, he murdered her with an injection of painkillers.
Alex and Rhoda Toth
In 1990, Florida couple Alex and Rhoda Toth were very close to hitting bottom. The pair were living on rice and beans before getting lucky and winning $13 million. Delivered in 20 yearly payouts of $666,666--quite an ominous number--it looked like the money would change their lives. Unfortunately, the Toths got caught up in family and IRS problems, and by 2006 they were living in a trailer with the only electricity coming from their car battery outside.
The marriage of Denise and Thomas Rossi seemed fine in 1996. But things got real when Denise won $1.3 million in the California lottery. Right before cashing in her ticket, she filed for divorce, thinking that she could keep her ex from getting a penny. Amazingly, he had no idea, and let the divorce go through uncontested. Two years later, he discovered her windfall and realized that he’d been played for a sucker. Thomas sued Denise and a judge awarded him all of the money. Oops.
The easiest way to lose a fortune is to get involved in entertainment, and when Florida teen Jonathan Vargas took home a $35 million Powerball jackpot in 2008, the vultures started circling. Vargas had always had a passion for pro wrestling, so he was convinced to invest his fortune in "Wrestlicious," an all-female fake fighting promotion. With a collection of former WWE managers behind the scenes and some of the worst in-ring action ever, let's just say it didn’t take off quite like Vargas had thought it would.
What's worse than a lottery loser? A two-time lottery loser. Evelyn Adams took home a total of $5.4 million from two winning tickets in 1985 and 1986. Unfortunately, when you have luck that good you sometimes want to let it ride, and Adams frittered away most of her score in Atlantic City. She also gave big sums to friends and relatives. By the time she was done squandering her fortune, she was left living in a trailer. Kind of funny that nobody she helped out when she was rich offered to help her back, huh?
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One lesson that we can learn from this list is that people under the age of 20 probably shouldn't be trusted with millions of dollars. When British teen Callie Rogers hit a jackpot of more than $3 million in the National Lottery, she promptly started pissing it away. Rogers was introduced to cocaine by a boyfriend and spent over $400,000 on the drug in six years before getting clean. She also got breast implants, fancy cars and more. Now that she's broke, Rogers is back to living with her parents and working as a maid.