Many people dream about winning the lottery; they believe that the money will solve all of their troubles. Unfortunately, the windfall can bring more problems than it solves. Most people do not know how to deal with their newfound wealth, and many of the winners go bankrupt.
Unfortunately, the money often attracts greedy people, who believe that they are entitled to some of the winnings. Family, friends, even strangers have no problem requesting small fortunes. Many become angry if they are not given exorbitant amounts of money.
The following people each had their lives—and their families’ lives—ruined by winning the lottery.
Abraham Shakespeare won $ 30 million in the lottery, and he took a lump sum amount of $ 17 million. He was insistent that the money would not change him. Shakespeare had always been a kindhearted man, who helped those in need, and he intended to stay that way.
Unfortunately, Shakespeare’s kindness became common knowledge. People would walk up to him on the streets and bombard him with their hard-luck stories. He could not resist helping them. Shakespeare was equally generous with his friends, and his kindness was rapidly depleting his bank account.
He met a woman, Dorice Moore, who offered to help him manage his money. Moore opened an account with Shakespeare’s money. She spent $ 1 million on expensive cars and lavish vacations.
It was not enough; Moore wanted all of his money. She shot Shakespeare twice in the chest, and she buried his body in a field. She told his friends and family that he had left town, wanting to escape the people who kept asking for money.
Moore pretended that Shakespeare was alive for months. She sent Shakespeare’s son gifts; she sent messages from Shakespeare’s cellphone; she staged sightings of Shakespeare; she even hired someone to pose as Shakespeare to call his mother.
Shakespeare’s family was not fooled by Moore. They reported him as missing. Police soon found his body, and they immediately suspected Moore. She was arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Urooj Khan was delighted with his million-dollar win ($ 425,000 as a lump sum after taxes). He planned to put the money back into his business, and he wanted to make a donation to a children’s hospital.
Khan attended a press conference where he received an oversized check. Then he went home and had a traditional Indian dinner with his daughter, his wife, and his father-in-law. Khan was not feeling well after the meal, and he went to bed early. He woke up in agony, and he collapsed when he tried to stand. His wife dialed 911, and Khan was rushed to the hospital. He died the next day.
The medical examiner determined that Khan had died of natural causes; his death was attributed to a type of cardiovascular disease. No autopsy was performed.
Khan’s brother was suspicious of the sudden death. He asked the medical examiner to reinvestigate his brother’s body. This time they found a lethal amount of cyanide in Khan’s blood.
Police have searched for the murderer, but they have been unsuccessful so far. The case remains open.
8Andrew J. Whittaker Jr.
Andrew Whittaker won $ 314.9 million; after taxes and a lump sum deduction, he received $ 113.4 million. He considered himself blessed. Whittaker immediately began donating money to charity. He gave millions to his church, and he created his own charity to help people find jobs, buy food, or get an education.
People soon started to ask for money. People sent him so many letters, that his charity had to hire three people to open them all. They spent more than eight hours a day just opening the letters.
Some people were not willing to wait for a donation. Several visitors showed up at his house every day to complain about their financial problems. A few of them became angry when he rejected them, and they threatened his family.
People started to sue Whittaker. He spent over $ 3 million fending off hundreds of lawsuits, nearly all of which were bogus.
Whittaker became stressed with the newfound attention. He started treating himself to frequent visits to strip clubs, and he started participating in high-stakes gambling. While he was at a strip club, he opened a briefcase that contained $ 545,000. Someone drugged him and stole the briefcase. The money was recovered, although the incident publicized his bad habits.
Although he was publicly disgraced, Whittaker was still adored by his family. He was especially close with his sole grandchild, Brandi. He had helped raise Brandi: her father was dead, and her mother, Whittaker’s daughter, had cancer.
He gave 15-year-old Brandi whatever she wanted, and Whittaker would randomly give her thousands of dollars. The cash attracted drug dealers, and she soon became addicted. He sent her to rehab, but it was unsuccessful.
Brandi’s death put a strain on Whittaker’s family. He and his wife divorced; they had been married for 42 years. The next year his daughter—his only child—died.
Whittaker now wishes that he had torn the lottery ticket up.
Jeffrey Dampier and his wife won $ 20 million in the lottery. They soon divorced, and each took half of the winnings. Jeffrey began dating Crystal Jackson. The couple moved to Florida, and they brought Crystal’s two sisters with them. Jeffrey supported the three women completely.
Victoria, Crystal’s sister, called Jeffrey and invited him to her home. When he arrived, he was confronted by Victoria and her boyfriend, Nathaniel. Even though Jeffrey supported Victoria, she and Nathaniel wanted more.
Nathaniel pulled a gun on Jeffrey. He ordered Victoria to bind Jeffrey’s wrists with shoelaces. They searched Jeffrey, and they found several thousand dollars in his pockets. It was not enough.
Nathaniel pointed his gun at Jeffrey and forced him into his van. Victoria drove while Nathaniel threatened Jeffrey with the gun. Nathaniel struck Jeffrey in the head multiple times while demanding more money. Victoria pulled over.
Nathaniel handed the gun to Victoria, and he told her “Shoot him or I’ll shoot you.” She shot and killed Jeffrey. Victoria and Nathaniel left. They were later arrested, and they both received multiple life sentences.
Brazilian Renné Senna was not having a good life. He had worked in a butcher shop, but he had to quit when diabetes caused both of his legs to be amputated. Senna had to sell goods on the side of the road to survive. His wife could not take their new life. She took the kids and left.
In 2005, Senna’s life changed when he hit the lottery. He won R$ 52 million ($ 16.8 million). Senna quickly started dating another woman, Adriana Almeida, who was 25 years younger than him. They had been acquaintances for years; however, she started showing interest in him after his lottery win.
They were soon married, and Almeida became the administrator of her husband’s estate. She convinced Senna to remove his 11 siblings from his will. He wrote a new will that left half of his money to Almeida.
Almeida had access to his bank accounts. She took R$ 1.8 million ($ 580,000) from their joint account and placed it into her own bank account. Senna was furious when he found out that she had used the money to buy a penthouse. He thought that she was having an affair—she was—and he confronted her. Senna warned Almeida that he would remove her name from his will. Almeida ran from the house.
A few days later Senna went to his favorite bar. Two armed men on motorcycles rode up and ordered Senna to hand over his money. They shot him four times in the head before they fled.
Police discovered that Almeida was behind the murder, and she was arrested. Almeida was found guilty, and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
5Lee R. Kost
Lee Kost was happily retired when he won $ 250,000 on a lottery ticket. The money quickly caused him problems. His home was broken into multiple times; he lost a few thousand dollars and several pieces of expensive jewelry.
The win also introduced new people to Kost’s life. He met a teenaged woman, Porche Sweet. They pair decided to have dinner one evening, and Sweet went home with Kost.
Unfortunately, Sweet was planning to rob Kost. She left the front door unlocked, and she texted three friends that she was in his home. The trio took a cab to Kost’s home. They went upstairs to his bedroom—where Kost and Sweet were.
One of the thieves—Terrence Maya—began to pistol-whip Kost. He demanded to know the PIN to his credit cards. The other robbers looked around for Kost’s credit cards and money. After they found Kost’s valuables, Maya fatally shot Kost.
The group stole Kost’s Jaguar and fled. They were quickly pulled over for speeding. Police noticed the gun in the car, and the robbers were all arrested. Three of the robbers will each serve at least 23 years; Maya will be imprisoned for life.
4Craigory Burch Jr.
Craigory Burch Jr. was stunned when he won $ 434,272 in a lottery drawing. Unfortunately, the windfall soon led to problems. Burch started to receive calls and text messages that warned him to be careful because people were planning to rob him.
Two months later the warnings became reality. A shotgun blast blew open Burch’s door, and several masked people stormed into his home. Burch was terrified: he was surrounded by his family, and he was holding his two-year-old. The robbers pointed their guns at Burch.
He begged them for mercy, and he offered them his bank card. Burch took off his pants and threw them at the robbers. They could not find his wallet. The robbers became angry, and they shot him in both legs before they left. However, they soon returned. The robbers shot Burch again before they left for good.
Fortunately, the robbers had spared Burch’s girlfriend and his children. His girlfriend ran to get help, but it was too late for Burch, who had died.
The robbers were caught, and seven people were charged in his death.
3Maria Lou Devrell
David and Maria Lou Devrell were thrilled when they won $ 5 million. They hired their friend of 20 years, finance manager Peter Kelly, to help manage their money. The Devrells gave him power of attorney: he was given control over the couple’s spending, bank accounts, and bills. Peter was also allowed to take money from their accounts to pay himself for the financial assistance.
Peter did not approve of Maria’s spending habits. He stopped by the Devrell’s home to talk to her about her financials. The conversation quickly turned into an argument, and Peter and Maria started shoving each other.
Peter angrily left the house and went to his car. He returned with a rubber mallet that he had wrapped in plastic. Peter hit Maria over the head multiple times, and then he smothered her. He staged a robbery and then left.
Maria’s body was found later that day, and Peter was arrested two weeks later. He said that their argument began when he confronted her about spending the winnings too quickly. However, the court showed that Peter had caused the Devrell’s money troubles. Peter had invested the couple’s money poorly, and he had lost nearly $ 1 million. Maria had questioned Peter’s financial advice, and Peter did not want to lose control over the Devrell’s money.
Peter was sentenced to 13-18 years in jail.
Filipinos Arturo and Leticia Eufemia hit a P$ 19.6 million ($ 390,000) jackpot in the lottery. They kept P$ 5 million ($ 100,000) in cash, and they deposited the rest into their bank account. The couple tried to keep the win a secret, but they were unsuccessful.
Arturo started to have nightly drinking parties with his friends, which annoyed his wife. Leticia and their daughter went to stay with relatives for a few days. Arturo continued to host his drinking parties.
One night, after all of his friends had left, a group of armed men confronted Arturo. They demanded money. Arturo became angry, and he pulled out his gun. He managed to shoot one of the robbers before they shot and killed him.
The thieves raided the Eufemias’ home. They took all the money they could find, and they left in the Eufemias’ new van. By the time the police arrived, the thieves were long gone.
Police managed to find the van, which was parked in front of the home of one of the robbers. Eventually, they arrested more than ten men. One of the thieves was Arturo’s cousin, Mayorico Guatno. It had been his idea to rob the Eufemias. He was angry at Arturo because Arturo had refused to lend him P$ 400,000 ($ 8,000).
In 1960, Bazil Thorne won £100,000—over $ 1.5 million today—in a lottery. He and his family were featured on the front pages of newspapers: the articles included the family’s photo, names, address, and the prize amount.
The publicity drew the attention of Stephen Bradley, who wanted some of their winnings. Bradley decided to kidnap the Thorne’s eight-year-old son, Graeme, and hold him for ransom. Bradley watched the family, and he perfected his plan.
Graeme waited on the corner of a street for a family friend, Phyllis Smith, to pick him up for school. Unfortunately, Bradley got to the boy first. Bradley lured Graeme into his car, drove to a deserted street, and drugged Graeme. The boy lost consciousness.
Meanwhile, Phyllis was surprised that Graeme was not waiting for her. She went to talk to his mother, who became concerned. She called the police, and an officer stopped by the Thorne home. A few minutes later, the phone rang. Bradley said that he had Graeme, and he wanted £25,000 ($ 400,000 today) to return him.
Bradley called again twelve hours later. He told them that the money should be put into two paper bags, but he hung up before leaving any further instructions. Bradley was panicking because he had accidently over-drugged Graeme. The boy had died.
Several days passed, and there was no contact between the Thornes and Bradley. The police eventually discovered Graeme’s body in a deserted field. They were able to match the cypress tree twigs, and pink mortar found on Graeme’s body to Bradley’s home.
Bradley was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.