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13 Lottery Winners Who Became Millionaires and Lost It All, and Lessons We Can Learn

Last updated 07/03/2023 by

Allan Du

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How many lottery winners lose it all? The sad truth is that a significant number of them encounter financial difficulties and may lose a substantial portion, if not all, of their winnings. Overspending, poor investments, and indulgent lifestyles can lead them down a path of financial ruin. Without proper planning and guidance, the sudden influx of wealth can quickly dwindle away.
Winning the lottery is a dream many people harbor, envisioning a life of luxury and financial freedom. However, the truth behind lottery success stories is more nuanced. A significant number of lottery winners find themselves facing financial challenges and, in some cases, losing their newfound wealth. In this article, we delve into the realities of 13 lottery winners who lost it all, as well as the lessons we can learn from their mistakes.

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13 lottery winners who lost it all

The biggest mistakes lottery winners make include mismanagement of funds, a lack of long-term planning, oversharing, taking poor advice, ignoring tax laws, and failing to adjust their lifestyle and expectations. Here are the stories of 13 lottery winners who ended up losing all their winnings:

Jack Whittaker

In 2002, Jack Whittaker won a record-breaking $314 million Powerball jackpot, the largest in history at that time. However, his story serves as a cautionary tale about the potential consequences of lottery winnings. Despite his initial generosity, giving away money until it depleted, Whittaker faced a series of hardships. He experienced personal tragedies, legal issues, and lost his home and relationships. Sadly, he passed away in 2020 at the age of 72. Whittaker’s life highlights the importance of responsible financial management and maintaining balance when faced with sudden wealth.

Evelyn Adams

Evelyn Adams achieved a remarkable feat by winning two multimillion-dollar prizes in New Jersey, one in 1985 and another in 1986, amounting to a total of $5.4 million. Unfortunately, Adams fell victim to common pitfalls faced by lottery winners. She squandered a significant portion of her winnings through gambling, excessive gift-giving to family members, lavish spending, and poor investments. As reported by Forbes, Adams ultimately depleted her entire fortune and had to downsize to a trailer.

Lara and Roger Griffiths

After winning a $2.19 million jackpot, Lara and Roger Griffiths’ marriage ended in divorce within a decade. They splurged on extravagant purchases and investments, including a rock star dream and a salon. However, their financial recklessness left them with less than $10, emphasizing the importance of responsible financial management post-lottery win.

David Lee Edwards

Within five years of winning a $27 million jackpot, David Lee Edwards and his wife were left penniless and living in a storage shed. Their extravagant spending on luxury cars, mansions, and a plane depleted their fortune rapidly. They burned through $3 million in three months and $12 million within the first year. Tragically, their lives took an even darker turn as they battled drug addiction. Just 12 years after the life-altering win, Edwards passed away at 58, alone and broke in hospice care.

Mickey Carroll

At the age of 19, Mickey Carroll became a British lottery winner with a staggering $11.8 million. However, his reckless behavior quickly earned him the nickname “Lotto Lout.” Carroll squandered his fortune on drug-fueled parties, lavish jewelry, and materialistic indulgences. By 2016, he was working in a slaughterhouse, earning only a few hundred dollars a week. In 2021, he remarried his ex-wife, who had left him during his extravagant lifestyle after discovering his infidelity with prostitutes.

Curtis Sharp

In 1982, Curtis Sharp experienced a life-changing moment when he won $5 million playing the lottery in New York. However, his story took a turn for the worse as his fortune quickly dwindled. Sharp’s wealth was significantly depleted due to failed marriages that consumed a substantial portion of his newfound wealth. Additionally, frequent visits to the casino, reckless spending, and excessive generosity also contributed to his financial downfall.

Alex Toth

Despite winning $13 million in the lottery, Alex Toth’s story took a tragic turn. After opting for annual installments of $666,666, the Florida resident ended up squandering his entire fortune on a lavish lifestyle. Following his split from his wife and facing tax fraud charges from the IRS, Toth’s life spiraled out of control. He eventually found himself broke and checked into a mental institution. Toth passed away in 2008, at the age of 60.

Willie Hurt

Willie Hurt’s life took a devastating turn after winning a $3.1 million Michigan Super Lotto jackpot in 1989. Unfortunately, his win coincided with the peak of the crack epidemic, and Hurt was caught in its destructive grip. Instead of bringing him joy and security, his winnings fueled a severe addiction to rock cocaine.
Within just two years, Hurt had squandered all of his fortune and found himself in dire circumstances. He faced financial ruin and the dissolution of his marriage. Tragically, his addiction escalated to a point where he was charged with the murder of a woman during a drug and alcohol binge that lasted several days, as reported by the Associated Press.

Gerald Muswagon

Gerald Muswagon, a Canadian lottery winner, experienced a tragic downfall after winning a $10 million jackpot in 2011. Despite the life-changing windfall, Muswagon quickly depleted his fortune within a few years. He indulged in a lavish lifestyle, purchasing a house that became a constant party spot for his entourage and spending extravagantly on cars, parties, and gifts. Alongside his excessive spending, Muswagon faced legal troubles that further drained his wealth.
Muswagon found himself working manual labor on a farm to support his girlfriend and six children. Unfortunately, the weight of his financial struggles and personal circumstances became overwhelming. Seven years after his lottery win, Muswagon tragically took his own life by hanging himself in his parents’ garage.

Marva Wilson

Marva Wilson, a great-grandmother and lottery winner, fell victim to the manipulative tactics of a scammer named Freya Pearson. After winning $2 million in the Missouri lottery in 2008, Wilson became an unsuspecting target. Pearson gained Wilson’s trust and exploited her, deceiving her into believing she was providing assistance with various financial matters such as filing a lien, managing taxes, and establishing a nonprofit organization in Wilson’s name.
Tragically, Pearson’s true intentions were to swindle Wilson out of her winnings. She cunningly drained Wilson’s bank accounts, leaving her with nothing. Pearson’s deceitful actions did not go unpunished, however, as she was eventually convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.

Urooj Khan

Tragedy struck Chicago businessman Urooj Khan in 2012 when, just weeks after winning a $1 million lottery prize, he passed away at the age of 46. Astonishingly, Khan hadn’t even received the money yet, adding to the mystery surrounding his death. Initially believed to be due to natural causes, his family’s persistence led to a new test that revealed the shocking truth: Khan had been poisoned with cyanide.
The investigation into Urooj Khan’s death took a dark turn, as the poisoning raised suspicions of foul play. However, despite ongoing efforts, the case remains unsolved.

Sharon Tirabassi

Sharon Tirabassi, a single mother who had previously relied on welfare, received a life-changing windfall in 2004 when she cashed a check from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. for over 10 million Canadian dollars. Excited by her newfound wealth, Tirabassi indulged in a luxurious lifestyle, splurging on extravagant purchases such as a grand house, high-end cars, designer clothing, lavish parties, and exotic vacations. She also generously shared her fortune with family and friends, providing handouts and loans.
However, the rapid depletion of her substantial winnings led to a stunning reversal of fortune. In less than a decade, Tirabassi found herself riding the bus, working part-time, and residing in a rented house. The allure of a lavish lifestyle had proven unsustainable, and the financial consequences of her spending choices became apparent.

Jeffrey Dampier

Dampier experienced a life-changing event when he won a staggering $20 million in the Illinois lottery in 1996. He made investments in a popcorn business and generously shared millions of dollars with friends and family.
However, complications arose when a woman named Victoria Jackson, who was the sister of Dampier’s wife, became entangled in the situation. Despite being in-laws, Jackson and Dampier had a secret affair that spanned several years. When Dampier decided to end their relationship and cut her off financially, Jackson, along with her new boyfriend, devised a plan to confront and harm him.
In 2005, Dampier was lured to a meeting by Jackson and her boyfriend, only to meet a fatal end. He was found murdered in his truck, leaving behind a tale of deceit, betrayal, and greed.

What are the biggest mistakes lottery winners make?

Winning the lottery can bring unimaginable wealth, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. Unfortunately, many lottery winners make significant mistakes that can jeopardize their financial security. If you ever win the lottery, here are some common pitfalls you’ll want to avoid:

Mismanagement of funds

One major mistake is mismanaging your newfound wealth. Some winners succumb to the temptation of extravagant purchases, lavish lifestyles, and unnecessary expenses without considering long-term financial planning. This reckless spending can quickly lead to financial troubles and even bankruptcy.

Lack of long-term planning

Another mistake is the lack of financial planning. Many lottery winners fail to create a solid financial plan or seek professional advice. Without a clear plan, they may struggle to allocate their funds wisely, make appropriate investments, or understand tax implications, which can result in financial difficulties down the road.


Some winners make the error of oversharing their win with the public or divulging excessive personal information. This can attract unwanted attention, such as requests for money, scams, and even threats.
Also, while it’s natural to want to help family and friends, giving away large sums of money without careful consideration can strain relationships and create financial dependency.

Poor advice

Choosing the wrong legal and financial advisors or not seeking professional help at all can be detrimental. Winners may receive improper guidance, make bad investments, or encounter legal issues that could have been avoided with proper advice.

Ignoring tax laws

Ignoring tax obligations is another significant mistake to avoid. Lottery winnings are typically subject to taxes, and failing to handle tax requirements properly can lead to penalties and legal consequences. Consulting with tax professionals and adhering to all tax obligations are crucial to avoid financial instability.

Changing lifestyle and expectations

Lastly, some winners fail to adjust their lifestyles and expectations to match their newfound wealth. They continue to spend money as if it is unlimited, which can lead to financial instability in the long run. It’s vital to maintain a realistic perspective, make informed financial decisions, and plan for the future.


How many lottery winners lose it all?

Factors such as the amount won, financial habits and the ability to manage newfound wealth play a crucial role in determining the fate of lottery winners. While precise statistics are hard to come by, studies and anecdotes suggest that a significant number of winners eventually encounter financial difficulties, with a substantial portion, if not all, of their winnings slipping away.

Who is the most famous lottery winner?

Mavis Wanczyk stands as an iconic figure in the realm of lottery winners. Back in August 2017, she achieved an awe-inspiring feat by clinching a colossal $758.7 million in the esteemed Powerball lottery. This astounding amount secured her a place in history as one of the fortunate few to claim such an enormous sum from a single ticket. As news of her remarkable win spread like wildfire, Mavis Wanczyk swiftly rose to the status of a celebrity, drawing the attention of the media far and wide. Her tale of lottery triumph not only captivated the public’s imagination but also served as a vivid illustration of the transformative power that a massive jackpot can bestow upon an individual’s life.

Have any lottery winners become billionaires?

There have been a few remarkable cases where lottery winners achieved the coveted billionaire status. One such event took place in January 2023, when an exceptionally fortunate individual from Maine emerged as the sole winner of an astonishing $1.4 billion jackpot in the Mega Millions draw.
This momentous triumph instantly propelled the lucky winner into the exclusive league of billionaires. Of course, while such occurrences are undeniably remarkable, it is crucial to recognize that they are also exceedingly rare.

Key takeaways

  • Studies and anecdotes suggest that a significant number of lottery winners encounter financial difficulties and may eventually lose a substantial portion or all of their winnings.
  • Overspending, poor investments, and indulgent lifestyles are common culprits that lead lottery winners to financial ruin.
  • Common mistakes to avoid if you ever win the lottery include mismanagement of funds, lack of long-term planning, oversharing personal information, taking poor advice, ignoring tax obligations, and failing to adjust your lifestyle and expectations.

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Allan Du

Allan Du is a personal finance writer passionate about helping people take control of their finances. Allan strives to present readers with the right knowledge and tools, so they can make informed decisions about their money and build wealth. When he is not writing about finance, Allan enjoys pursuing his other interests, including powerlifting, kickboxing, and investing. He is an active follower of economic and political trends, always keeping watch on the latest developments that could impact the financial world.

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