Unlucky in riches
By Ellen Goodstein • Bankrate.com
For a lot of people, winning the lottery is the American dream. But for many lottery winners, the reality is more like a nightmare.
"Winning the lottery isn't always what it's cracked up to be," says Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey lottery not just once but twice (1985, 1986) to the tune of $5.4 million. Today the money is all gone and Adams lives in a trailer.
"I won the American dream but I lost it, too. It was a very hard fall. It's called rock bottom," says Adams.
"Everybody wanted my money. Everybody had their hand out. I never learned one simple word in the English language -- 'No.' I wish I had the chance to do it all over again. I'd be much smarter about it now," says Adams who also lost money at the slot machines in Atlantic City.
"I was a big time gambler," admits Adams. "I didn't drop a million dollars, but it was a lot of money. I made mistakes, some I regret, some I don't. I'm human. I can't go back now so I just go forward, one step at a time."
Living on food stamps
William "Bud" Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 but now lives on his Social Security.
"I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare," says Post.
A former girlfriend successfully sued him for a share of his winnings. It wasn't his only lawsuit. A brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him, hoping to inherit a share of the winnings. Other siblings pestered him until he agreed to invest in a car business and a restaurant in Sarasota, Fla., -- two ventures that brought no money back and further strained his relationship with his siblings.
Post even spent time in jail for firing a gun over the head of a bill collector.
Within a year, he was $1 million in debt.
Post admitted he was both careless and foolish, trying to please his family. He eventually declared bankruptcy.
Now he lives quietly on $450 a month and food stamps.
"I'm tired, I'm over 65 years old, and I just had a serious operation for a heart aneurysm. Lotteries don't mean [anything] to me," says Post.
Deeper in debt
Suzanne Mullins won $4.2 million in the Virginia lottery in 1993. Now she's deeply in debt to a company that lent her money using the winnings as collateral.
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She borrowed $197,746.15, which she agreed to pay back with her yearly checks from the Virginia lottery through 2006. But, when the rules changed allowing her to collect her winnings in a lump sum, she cashed in the remaining amount. But, she stopped making payments on the loan.
She blamed the debt on the lengthy illness of her uninsured son-in-law who needed $1 million for medical bills.
Mark Kidd, the Roanoke, Va., lawyer who represented the Singer Asset Finance Company who sued Mullins, confirms. He won a judgment for the company against Mullins for $154,147 last May, but they have yet to collect a nickel.
"My understanding is she has no assets," says Kidd.
Back to the basics
Ken Proxmire was a machinist when he won $1 million in the Michigan lottery. He moved to California, went into the car business with his brothers and within five years, Ken had filed for bankruptcy.
"He was just a poor boy who got lucky and wanted to take care of everybody," explains Ken's son Rick.
"It was a hell of a good ride for three or four years, but now he lives more simply. There's no more talk of owning a helicopter or riding in limos. We're just everyday folk. Dad's now back to work as a machinist," says his son.
Willie Hurt of Lansing, Mich., won $3.1 million in 1989. Two years later he was broke and charged with murder. His lawyer says Hurt spent his fortune on a divorce and crack cocaine.
Charles Riddle of Belleville, Mich., won $1 million in 1975. Afterward, he got divorced, faced several lawsuits and was indicted for selling cocaine.
Missourian Janite Lee won $18 million in 1993. Lee was generous to a variety of causes, particularly politics, education and the community. But according to published reports, eight years after winning, Lee had filed for bankruptcy with only $700 left in two bank accounts and no cash on hand.
One Southeastern family won $4.2 million in the early '90s. They bought a huge house and succumbed to repeated family requests for help in paying off debts.