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From rags to riches to rags: 20 lottery winners who lost it all

Believe it or not, statistics show 70% of lottery winners end up broke and a third go on to declare bankruptcy. Runaway spending, toxic investments and poor accounting can burn through a lucrative windfall in next to no time. From rags to riches then back to rags again, these 20 unlucky lottery winners found out the hard way.

Marva Wilson, winnings: £1.6m

Kansas City grandmother Marva Wilson won $2 million (£1.6m) won the Missouri Lottery in 2008, but didn't hold onto it for long. A family acquaintance called Freya Pearson scammed the unfortunate prize-winner out of her winnings, leaving trusting Wilson with nothing. Pearson was sentenced to five years in prison for her crime.

Roger Griffiths, winnings: £1.8m

After Yorkshireman Roger Griffiths bagged a £1.8m win on the UK National Lottery in October 2005, he quit his job along with his wife and binge-spent his cash, snapping up designer clothes, luxury cars and a barn conversion, and jetting off on extravagant vacations. The money soon ran out and the couple's marriage broke down. Their assets had to be sold off to cover the debts and Griffiths now lives alone in a small cottage in Wetherby, West Yorkshire.


Callie Rogers, winnings: £1.9m

Phil Noble/PA Archive

Britain's youngest lottery winner, Callie Rogers was over the moon when she scooped $2.5 million (£1.9m) in 2003 at the tender age of 16. The supermarket till-operator from Cumbria ditched her job and pretty much went off the rails, splurging on cosmetic surgery, drug-fuelled nights out, vacations and gifts. By 2013, Rogers had just $2,580 (£2k) left in the bank.

Ronnie Music Jr, winnings: £2.3m

Instead of investing his winnings sensibly in real estate or stocks and shares, 45-year-old Ronnie Music Jr plumped for crystal meth of all things when he landed a $3 million (£2.3m) prize playing the Georgia Lottery in February 2015. The hapless drug dealer was caught, and on top of losing his investment, Music was sentenced to 21 years in prison in April 2016.

Daniel Carley, winnings: £2.8m

Another lottery winner who has ended up behind bars, Daniel Carley scooped $3.7 million (£2.8m) on the Ontario Lottery in 2006. By 2012, Carley was broke and up to his eyeballs in debt. Desperate to make ends meet, he turned to drug dealing and was sentenced last August to two and a half years in the slammer for selling crack cocaine.

John Roberts, winnings: £3.1m

The champagne corks were flying when Edinburgh native John Roberts scored a $4 million (£3.1m) win on the UK National Lottery in 1998, but Roberts was back to drinking Cava in next to no time. The spendthrift Scot spent a fortune on supercars and dodgy investments, including a money-pit pub. By 2001, Roberts' winnings had disappeared and he ended up moving into a mobile home.

Ibi Roncaioli, winnings: £3.9m

Ibi Roncaioli and her doctor husband Joseph were already comfortably off when Ibi won $5 million (£3.9m) 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 served seven years in prison for the crime.

Lou Eisenberg, winnings: £3.9m

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

Peter Kyle, winnings: £5.1m

Former soldier Peter Kyle cleaned up to the tune of £5.1m when his numbers came up on the UK National Lottery in 2005, and the Plymouth native even won £500 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 benefit, having pumped his cash into a series of appallingly bad investments.

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Lawrence Candlish, winnings: £5.5m

When Lawrence Candlish landed a UK National Lottery pay-out of £5.5m 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 now penniless ex-pat returned to the UK to face the music in 2012 and received a suspended sentence for the fraud.

Sharon Tirabassi, winnings: £6.1m

A victim of her own generosity, Sharon Tirabassi, 39, from Hamilton, Ontario won $7.8 million (£6m) 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 trust for her children and Tirabassi is living frugally in a rented house.

Bryan Magee, winnings: £6.4m

Bryan Magee from Derry, Northern Ireland nabbed a spot on the Sunday Times Top 100 Rich List for young people when he won the UK National Lottery jackpot in February 2008. But his affluence was short-lived. Magee lost a fortune when his business crashed in 2013, and eventually had to put the home he bought with his winnings up for sale to help pay off his creditors.

Lee Ryan, winnings: £6.5m

Londoner Lee Ryan was awaiting trial for handling stolen vehicles when he walked away with a £6.5m win on the UK National Lottery in 1995. The convicted criminal, who served nine months in prison, spent like crazy on his release. Ryan moved to Kyrgyzstan 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: £9m

Tragic Keith Gough picked up £9m 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: £9.7m

Andrew Parsons/PA Archive

Bin man Mickey Carroll scooped the UK National Lottery jackpot in 2002 at the age of 19. Dubbed the 'lotto lout' by the British tabloid press, the convicted criminal from Norfolk squandered the lot on partying, jewellery, tacky vehicles and OTT 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: £10m

Winning a bumper £10m on the UK National Lottery in 1997, soccer fan John McGuinness quit his £150 a week hospital porter job and spent like no tomorrow, snapping up troubled soccer club Livingstone in the process for £3m. Guinness hadn't realised he'd be liable for the club's debts and his remaining winnings were swallowed up. By 2009, Guinness had barely enough cash left for groceries.

William Post, winnings: £12.6m

William 'Bud' Post III thought he'd lucked-out big-time when he won $16.2 million (£12.6m) on the Pennsylvania Lottery in 1988. Not so much 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. His spending out of control, Post eventually ran up debts of $1 million (£775k) and was living on food stamps for several years before his death in 2006 at the age of 66.

Janite Lee, winnings: £14m

Courtesy William J. Clinton Presidential Center

South Korean immigrant Janite Lee went from rags to riches in 1993, winning a cool $18 million (£14m) on the Missouri Lottery. Overly generous, the former wig maker's American dream soon turned into a nightmare. Lee donated millions to charity and bankrolled the Democrat Party, and bought everything on credit. By 2001, the philanthropist was bankrupt, owing her debtors a staggering $2.5 million (£1.9m).

David Lee Edwards, winnings: £21m

Kentucky resident David Lee Edwards won a $27 million (£21m) 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, fleet of luxury cars and LearJet, not to mention copious amounts of narcotics. Ravaged by drugs and estranged from his wife, the ill-fated lottery winner died in 2013 aged 58, penniless and alone.

Jack Whittaker, winnings: £87.6m

In 2002, construction boss Jack Whittaker won a whopping $314.9 million (£244.2m) on the Powerball multi-state lottery and opted for a lump sum payout of $113 million (£87.6m). Plagued by bad luck, the Virginia native overspent and frittered away the cash on bad investments – he was even robbed at one point. By 2007, all the money had gone and Whittaker was back to square one.

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