Lottery Winners Who Went Broke

empty wallet.jpg

Lotto winner: Denise Rossi 

Lotto winnings: $1.3 million

denise rossi.jpg

In 1996, Denise Rossi won $1.3 million from the California Lottery.  She had been married to her husband Thomas Rossi for 25 years and the first thing she did after she won was file for a divorce. Thomas was shocked as why she wanted out of the marriage, everything seemed fine, “we even shared the same electric toothbrush” he said at a court filing. The divorce went through and Denise kept her winnings a secret from Thomas. Either she had a good lawyer or he had a bad one, or both. In 1999, Thomas received a letter at his house from the California Lottery asking Denise if she wanted to switch her winnings to a lump sum rather than annual payments. So, Thomas went back and sued Denise. The judge declared that Denise had violated state asset-disclosure laws and as a result Thomas was to receive all of her winnings. Karmas a b**ch!! From then on Thomas got $50,000 a year from his court victory. During an interview with People magazine in 2004, Thomas had this to say about the whole situation. “If it wasn’t for the lotto, Denise and I would probably still be together. Things worked out for the best.” 


Lotto winner: Suzanne Mullins 

Lotto winnings: $4.2 million

suzanne mullins.jpg

Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million in the Virginia Lottery in 1993. She started living a very lavish lifestyle and gave a lot of money away to friends and family members. Within 5 years, her 20 annual payments of less than $50,000 wasn’t enough for her. She actually took a loan out from the People’s Lottery Foundation for $200,000 using her remaining winnings as collateral. In 2004 she was sued because she still owed the People’s Lottery Foundation $150,000. It’s probably a good idea to invest in a little knowledge about basic how to manage money skills. 


Lotto winner: Evelyn Marie Adams

Lotto winnings: $5.3 million

woman with lotto ticket.jpg

Evelyn Marie Adams, a convenience store clerk from New Jersey won the lottery not once but twice in 1985. Her winnings totaled to be $5.3 million. The money changed her life drastically because everyone she knew heard about her winnings. In 1993, she did an interview with the New York Times saying; “I couldn’t go anywhere without being recognized.” The money caused strain on her family relationships “A few of my relatives were angry because I had so much.” She then started gambling and lost a big chunk of her winnings to the casinos in Atlantic City. The New York Post interviewed Evelyn in 2012 to talk about her whereabouts. She was living in a trailer park. “I’m broke now… I work two jobs,” she said. “my advice to anyone (who wins the lottery) would be to go to your lawyer and accountant first.” That is good advice, too bad by the time she had figured that out it was too late. 


Lotto winners: Alex & Rhonda Toth

Lotto winnings: $13 million


Alex and Rhoda Toth only had $24 to their name when they won the lottery in Florida. They went from rags to riches over night, winning $13 million and accepting payments of $666,666 for 20 years. However, all that money changed their social lives dramatically. In 1997, Rhoda Toth told the St. Petersburg Times “It caused us to lose a lot of friends, some family members.” In 2006 the federal government charged the Toths with tax fraud. Alex Toth died at the age of 60 before having to stand trial and Rhonda was found guilty, having to spend two years in prison. They’re not joking when they say the only two things for sure in life is death and taxes. 


Lotto winner: William Post III

Lotto winnings: $16.2 million

William post_goog.jpg

William Post III was a bit of a drifter through life. He mostly worked at carnivals to eat and spent some time in jail for petty crimes. It seems he wasn’t ever going to amount to much. Then in his 40’s, with only a few bucks to his name, he won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania Lottery. You would think that his life, his kid’s life and his kid’s kids lives were made, but William had a horrible spending habit. Just three months after he got his first prize money Post was in financial trouble, owing half a million dollars. It was because he bought a twin-engine airplane, he didn’t even know how to fly. It got even crazier, his brother was caught, charged and convicted of planning William’s murder. William continued spending all of the winnings he would receive annually on material things. He never planned for his future. By the early 1990’s William filed for bankruptcy. His bankruptcy lawyer John Lacher once told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “It was like a real life ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ story. He did everything you would expect a guy who became a millionaire overnight, While you might buy one laptop, Bud would see the same laptop and buy 30.”  In 2006 William Post died of respiratory failure, at age 66. 


Lotto winner: Janite Lee

Lotto winnings: $18 million

Janite Lee_goog.jpg

In 1993, Janite Lee, who ran a wig shop in St Louis won $18 million in the Illinois Lottery. She had it set up that she would get around $620,000 after taxes annually. She then donated large sums of cash to her choice of political candidates, foundations and charities. She bought a very expensive plate at a fundraising luncheon for Bill Clinton. Washington University’s School of Law named a reading room after her, based on a donation check she wrote them. In one year she lost nearly $350,000 gambling in casinos. In 2001, Janite Lee filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. At this point in her life she only had $700 to her name and owed $2.5 million. 


Lotto winner: Billie Bob Harrell Jr.

Lotto winnings: $31 million

Billie bob_ goog.jpg

In 1997, Billie Bob Harrell’s life was changed forever when he won a Texas lottery of $31 million. He was have some financial woes too before he won, so his $1.2 million annual payments seemed like a Godsend. Harrell was a nice person who liked to give back to his community. He would buy his friends and family houses, cars, whatever they wanted. He even bought 500 turkeys for the poor at Christmas time. “He played Santa Clause” his mother said to People magazine. The pressures of having money and everyone asking for something took its toll on Harrell. He had to change his home phone number more than once and he and his wife got a divorce. Not even two years after Harrell won the jackpot, he took his own life. 


Lotto winner: Jack Whitaker

Lotto winnings: $ 170.5 million

J whitaker_goog.jpg

Jack Whitaker is probably one of the few, or the only lottery winner to have already been a millionaire before he won. On Christmas, in 2002, Whitaker won a record breaking $315 million lottery in West Virginia. He chose to have it all in one lump sum, that amounted to $170.5 million. “Im getting really excited because of all the good works I can do with this,” is the quote Whitaker gave the New York Times. But not long after the money came, Whitaker started having marriage problems that ended in divorce. Then his granddaughter died under mysterious circumstances that prompted him to drink heavily. Throughout the years he turned into an alcoholic, was robbed many times and battled over 400 legal complaints. “I wish I’d torn that ticket up,” he told ABC News. 

Peter O'Melia