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25 lottery winners who lost the lot

From rags to riches and back again

<p>Phil Noble/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Phil Noble/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Believe it or not, winning millions on the lottery may not be the answer to all your problems. In fact, it could just be the beginning of them.

Runaway spending, toxic investments, and poor accounting can burn through a lucrative windfall in next to no time. From (relative) rags to riches then back to rags again, read on for the stories of 25 lottery winners who found this out the hard way.

All dollar values in US dollars unless stated.

Ken Proxmire, winnings: $1 million (£787k)

<p>Found Image Holdings Inc/Contributor/Getty Images</p>

Found Image Holdings Inc/Contributor/Getty Images

In 1977, Ken Proxmire was the lucky recipient of the $1 million (£787k) Michigan State Lottery jackpot, and he opted to receive his windfall in annual instalments of $50,000 (£39k) for the next 14 years. Proxmire jumped in at the deep end of the millionaire’s lifestyle and treated himself and his family to a house in California, a new car, and his own pool parlour.

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But the businessman expanded his new venture too quickly and, fuelled by lavish spending and mounting debt, it was the catalyst to his high life collapsing into bankruptcy. Proxmire’s advice for future lottery winners? “Crawl into a hole and pull the top in”, according to an interview with The New York Times.

Denise Rossi, winnings: $1.3 million (£1m)

<p>zimmytws/Shutterstock</p>

zimmytws/Shutterstock

Denise Rossi and her husband Thomas had been happily married for 25 years, or so he thought, when Denise suddenly filed for divorce in January 1997. Two years later, Thomas mistakenly received a letter addressed to his ex-wife from a company that pays lump sums to lottery winners. After getting a court injunction, he discovered that Denise had won $1.3 million (£1m) just 11 days before she filed for divorce.

Under California law, Thomas should have been entitled to 50% of his wife's wealth as part of the divorce settlement. He took Denise to court and, to punish her for her concealment, a judge ordered her to pay not half, but all her winnings to her ex-husband.

Lara and Robert Griffiths, winnings: $2.3 million (£1.8m)

<p>Matthew Horwood/Getty Images</p>

Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

This British couple not only blew their multimillion-pound lottery win but also saw their marriage collapse as a result. Lara and Roger Griffiths fully embraced the luxury lifestyle after their £1.8 million ($2.3m) windfall in 2005, but raucous spending and bad investments quickly caused disharmony between the pair.

The Griffiths’ 14-year marriage came to an end when Roger moved out, and a week later he revealed that their fortune was all but gone. In 2013 he told The Sun newspaper he had just £7 ($9) to his name, while Lara was surviving on financial support from her mother.

Callie Rogers, winnings: $2.4 million (£1.9m)

<p>Phil Noble/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Phil Noble/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Britain's youngest lottery winner, Callie Rogers was over the moon when she scooped £1.9 million ($2.4m) in 2003 at just 16 years old. The supermarket checkout girl from Cumbria ditched her job and splurged on cosmetic surgery, extravagant nights out, holidays, and gifts.

By 2013, Rogers reportedly had just £2,000 ($2.5k) left in the bank.

Ronnie Music Jr, winnings: $3 million (£1.9m)

<p>Courtesy Georgia Lottery</p>

Courtesy Georgia Lottery

Instead of investing his winnings sensibly in real estate or stocks and shares, 45-year-old Ronnie Music Jr put his winnings into a crystal meth ring when he landed a $3 million (£2.4m) prize playing the Georgia Lottery in February 2015.

The hapless drug dealer was caught, and on top of losing his money, Music Jr was sentenced to 21 years in prison in April 2016.

Ibi Roncaioli, winnings: $3.7 million (£2.9m)

<p>Ontario court handout</p>

Ontario court handout

Ibi Roncaioli and her doctor husband Joseph were already comfortably off when Ibi won CA$5 million ($3.7m/£2.9m) on the Canadian Lotto 6/49 in 1991. But all was not well in the relationship. Ibi had two "secret" sons from previous relationships and gifted them the bulk of the winnings.

When Joseph found out in July 2003, he killed his wife by injecting her with a cocktail of lethal drugs. The former gynaecologist was sentenced to seven years in prison for the crime.

Daniel Carley, winnings: $3.7 million (£2.9m)

<p>Courtesy Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation</p>

Courtesy Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation

Another lottery winner who has ended up behind bars, Daniel Carley scooped up CA$5 million ($3.7m/£2.9m) on the Ontario Lottery in 2006. The St. Catherines resident spent like crazy, and by 2012, Carley was broke and up to his eyeballs in debt.

Desperate to make ends meet, he turned to drug dealing and in August 2017 was sentenced to two and a half years in the slammer for selling drugs.

John Roberts, winnings: $3.9 million (£3.1m)

<p>Chris Bacon/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Chris Bacon/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

The champagne corks were flying when Edinburgh native John Roberts scored a £3.1 million ($3.9m) win on the UK National Lottery in 1998, but Roberts wasn't living the high life for long.

The Scot spent a fortune on supercars and suspect investments, including a money-pit pub. By 2001, Roberts' winnings had disappeared and he ended up moving into a mobile home.

Suzanne Mullins, winnings: $4.2 million (£3.3m)

<p>sfam_photo/Shutterstock</p>

sfam_photo/Shutterstock

Within a decade of her $4.2 million (£3.3m) lottery win in 1993, Suzanne Mullins of Virginia found herself broke and more than $150,000 (£118k) in debt. Mullins claimed she’d spent $1 million (£787k) of the cash on medical bills on behalf of her son-in-law, who had a long-term illness, and running low on funds she borrowed money from a lottery winners’ foundation.

After failing to pay the money back, she was sued for the missing amount, which plunged her further into the red.

Lou Eisenberg, winnings: $5 million (£3.9m)

<p>Zuma Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Zuma Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo

Brooklyn-born Lou Eisenberg became a multimillionaire in 1981, winning the New York State Lottery jackpot on the ominous date of Friday 13 November. The $5 million (£3.9m) win was the largest lottery payout at the time.

Eisenberg gambled away most of his winnings and the remainder went on paying off his ex-wives. By 2001, the cash had dried up and Eisenberg was living in a mobile home.

Evelyn Basehore, winnings: $5.4 million (£4.3m)

<p>Virrage Images/Shutterstock</p>

Virrage Images/Shutterstock

Evelyn Basehore seemed like the luckiest woman in the world when she won the lottery not once but twice in the mid-1980s, netting her a total of $5.4 million (£4.3m) in the space of four months. The New Jersey resident hoped to keep up her lucky streak when she spent the lion’s share of her cash on gambling, but the habit left her broke and living in a trailer park, working two jobs to get by.

Basehore held out hopes for another win though, and in 2016, NBC News reported that she was still buying lottery tickets.

Peter Kyle, winnings: $6.5 million (£5.1m)

<p>Barry Batchelor/PA Images /Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Barry Batchelor/PA Images /Alamy Stock Photo

Former soldier Peter Kyle cleaned up to the tune of £5.1 million ($6.5m) when his numbers came up on the UK National Lottery in 2005, and the Plymouth native even won an extra £500 ($635) playing Bingo to celebrate the win.

But all this good luck wasn't to last. By 2008, Kyle had lost the lot and was forced to claim unemployment benefits having pumped his cash into a series of bad investments.

Francisco Guerrero, winnings: $7 million (£5.5m)

<p>Manuel Esteban/Shutterstock</p>

Manuel Esteban/Shutterstock

In December 2005, Spanish bricklayer Francisco Guerrero struck it lucky when he won €6.47 million ($7m/£5.5m) in the Spanish Bonoloto.

Yet, allegedly under the guidance of a Santander bank employee, he made a number of bad investments and ended up losing not only the money but also all of his properties.

Lawrence Candlish, winnings: $7 million (£5.5m)

<p>Yau Ming Low/Shutterstock</p>

Yau Ming Low/Shutterstock

When Lawrence Candlish landed a UK National Lottery payout of £5.5 million ($7m) in 1997, the Gateshead resident lavished his family with gifts, including property and cars. Candlish moved to Spain in the early 2000s and ploughed the rest of his winnings into several failed business schemes, while illegally claiming UK disability benefits.

The penniless ex-pat returned to the UK to face the music in 2012 and received a suspended sentence for the fraud.

Sharon Tirabassi, winnings: $7.7 million (£6.1m)

<p>Courtesy Interprovincial Lottery Corporation ILC</p>

Courtesy Interprovincial Lottery Corporation ILC

A victim of her own generosity, Sharon Tirabassi, 39, from Hamilton, Ontario won CA$10.5 million ($7.7m/£6.1m) in the Canadian Lotto Super 7 back in 2004. Tirabassi spent lavishly on family and friends, splurging on everything from designer clothes to a tricked-out Cadillac.

Now, all that's left of her lottery winnings is tied up in a trust for her children.

Ryan Magee, winnings: $8.1 million (£6.4m)

<p>Paul Faith/PA Archive</p>

Paul Faith/PA Archive

Ryan Magee from Derry, Northern Ireland nabbed a spot on the Sunday Times Top 100 Rich List for young people when he won £6.4 million ($8.1m) via the UK National Lottery in February 2008.

But his affluence was short-lived. Magee lost a fortune when his business crashed in 2013 and eventually had to sell the home he bought with his winnings to help pay off his creditors.

Lee Ryan, winnings: $8.3 million (£6.5m)

<p>Neil Munns/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Neil Munns/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Londoner Lee Ryan was awaiting trial for handling stolen vehicles when he walked away with a £6.5 million ($8.3m) win on the UK National Lottery in 1995. The convicted criminal, who had previously served three years in prison for car theft and was jailed again in late 1995 for the same crime, spent like crazy when he was finally released.

Ryan left his wife and moved to Kyrgyzstan with a new girlfriend in the mid-2000s and was duped out of the rest of his winnings. By 2010, the money had all but vanished. Ryan returned to London and the "Lotto Lag", as he was nicknamed by the UK press, spent two years sleeping on the streets.

Keith Gough, winnings: $11.4 million (£9m)

<p>David Jones/PA Archive/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

David Jones/PA Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Keith Gough picked up £9 million ($11.4m) in prize money when his numbers came up on the UK National Lottery in 2005. Keith splurged on luxuries and spoiled family and friends, and as his spending spiralled out of control, his wife divorced him and Keith descended into alcoholism.

Broke and in serious debt, he died of a heart attack in March 2010.

Michael Carroll, winnings: $12.3 million (£9.7m)

<p>Andrew Parsons/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Andrew Parsons/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Refuse collector Michael Carroll scooped the UK National Lottery jackpot in 2002 at the age of 19, winning £9.7 million ($12.3m). Dubbed the "Lotto lout" by the British tabloid press, the convicted criminal from Norfolk squandered the lot on partying, jewellery, extravagant cars, and gifts for family and friends.

By 2010, Carroll was so hard up, he was forced to return to his former minimum wage job to make ends meet.

John McGuinness, winnings: $12.7 million (£10m)

<p>PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo</p>

PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Winning a bumper £10 million ($12.7m) on the UK National Lottery in 1997, football fan John McGuinness quit his £150-a-week ($190 per week) hospital porter job and spent like there was no tomorrow, buying his beloved soccer club Livingston in the process for £3 million ($3.8m).

But McGuinness hadn't realised that he would be liable for the club's debts and his remaining winnings were swallowed up. By 2009, McGuinness barely had enough cash left for groceries.

William Post, winnings: $16.2 million (£12.8m)

<p>William Thomas Cain/Getty Images</p>

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

William "Bud" Post III thought he'd lucked out big-time when he won $16.2 million (£12.8m) on the Pennsylvania Lottery in 1988. But he didn't feel so lucky when his brother tried to have him murdered to get hold of the money, and his wife successfully sued him for a large chunk of the winnings.

With his spending out of control, Post eventually ran up debts of $1 million (£787k) and was living on food stamps for several years before his death in 2006 at the age of 66.

Janite Lee, winnings: $18 million (£14.2m)

<p>Courtesy William J. Clinton Presidential Center</p>

Courtesy William J. Clinton Presidential Center

South Korean-born Janite Lee went from rags to riches in 1993, winning a cool $18 million (£14.2m) on the Missouri Lottery. Overly generous, the former wig maker's American dream soon turned into a nightmare.

Lee donated millions to charity, bankrolled the Democrat Party and bought everything on credit. By 2001, the philanthropist was bankrupt, owing her debtors a staggering $2.5 million (£2m).

David Lee Edwards, winnings: $27 million (£21.3m)

<p>ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo</p>

ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo

Kentucky resident David Lee Edwards won a $27 million (£21.3m) share of a Powerball jackpot in 2002. Flush with cash, Edwards went on the mother of all spending sprees, blowing the lot in under five years on a huge mansion and a fleet of luxury cars, not to mention copious amounts of narcotics.

Ravaged by drugs and estranged from his wife, the ill-fated lottery winner died in 2013 aged just 58, penniless and alone.

Billie Bob Harrell Jr, winnings: $31 million (£24.4m)

<p>Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock</p>

Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock

Home Depot worker Billie Bob Harrell Jr was quick to quit his job at the hardware store in 1997 when he landed a $31 million (£24.4m) Texas Lottery jackpot. Harrell was charitable with his millions, purchasing homes for himself and family members, and donating generously to his local church.

But the do-gooder’s eagerness to help others was ultimately his downfall. A mere 20 months after winning the enormous sum, Harrell was left broke and tragically decided to take his own life. Just before his death Harrell reportedly said to his financial adviser: “Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me”.

Andrew 'Jack' Whittaker, winnings: $113 million (£89m)

<p>Scott Gries/Getty Images</p>

Scott Gries/Getty Images

In 2002, construction boss Andrew "Jack" Whittaker was already worth $17 million (£12.5m) when he won a whopping $113 million (£89m) after taxes on the Powerball multi-state lottery. Unlike other people on this list, Whittaker was no stranger to managing a multimillion-dollar bank balance and began organising extravagant donations and investments.

But luck wasn't on his side for long. The Virginia native claims he was robbed multiple times in the early 2000s and three of his family members tragically died in just five years. As his personal life spun out of control, Whittaker failed to pay his debts and declared bankruptcy by 2007. According to TIME, he told reporters that he wished he'd torn his ticket up. He died in 2020.

Now, meet the people who blew their huge inheritances