Powerball jackpot in US hits billion dollar record high: 6 cautionary tales of past winners

Hundreds of people waiting in line to purchase tickets for the Powerball lottery in San Bernardino County, California, on Jan 9, 2016.
Hundreds of people waiting in line to purchase tickets for the Powerball lottery in San Bernardino County, California, on Jan 9, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

The jackpot in the Powerball lottery has now snowballed to a whopping US$1.3 billion (S$1.88 billion), after no ticket holder had the winning combination of six numbers selected during Saturday's (Jan 9) draw.

 

It is the first US lottery jackpot to reach $1 billion, Reuters reported. Should there be no winner for the next draw slated for Wednesday, it is expected to notch another record.

But while the eventual winner of the multi-state lottery will be catapulted to instant billionaire status, fame and riches can be bad news for some.

Here are some cautionary tales of past lottery winners. Proof that with great wealth, comes even greater burden.

1. Marie Holmes


Lottery winner Marie Holmes showing off her winning Powerball ticket. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

Ms Holmes, an unemployed North Carolina mother of four, was one of three winners who split the US$564 million Powerball lottery last February.

The 26-year-old pocketed a cool US$88 million - after deducting taxes and fees - but has spent a large chunk of it bailing her fiance not once, not twice, but four times out of jail.

As it turns out, 31-year-old Lamar McDow, nicknamed Hot Sauce, is an alleged drug trafficker and notorious gang member. His fourth transgression, for arranging an illegal street race last month, cost Ms Holmes US$12 million.

Ms Holmes was also charged with possession of marijuana in July 2015.

2. Abraham Shakespeare


Truck driver Abraham Shakespeare (centre) posing with his winner's cheque. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

The illiterate truck driver's assistant thought he hit paydirt when he won the US$30 million Florida state lottery in 2006.

But he soon found out - in his own words - that he would have been "better off staying broke", as friends and strangers alike clamoured for a slice of the US$16.9 million pie he had been awarded.

In 2008, the then-42-year-old befriended a woman, Dorice Donegan "Dee Dee" Moore, who claimed she wanted to write a book about his life.

Moore convinced Mr Shakespeare to transfer all his remaining assets to her before murdering him on April 7, 2009, and burying his body.

She was convicted of first degree murder in December 2012 and sentenced to life in prison.

3. Americo Lopes


Former construction worker Americo Lopes. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

Mr Lopes, a construction worker from New Jersey, had reportedly taken part in a lottery pool with five of his colleagues since 2007.

But when he discovered that he had purchased a winning Mega Millions ticket, he cashed out the US$17 million cheque (after deducting taxes) on his own, quit his job and lied that he needed foot surgery.

But Mr Lopes was the architect of his own downfall when he could not keep the secret and told one of his erstwhile colleagues, who informed the others and subsequently sued him for a share of the winnings.

Mr Lopes was left bemoaning that he had been "robbed" when the court ordered him to split the prize.

4. Janite Lee

A South Korean immigrant who worked at a wig shop, Ms Lee won the US$18 million Illinois Lottery in 1993 and opted to receive a yearly payout of US$620,000.

After moving her family to a multi-million dollar gated community in the city of St Louis, she proceeded to fritter away her cash through political donations, gambling and hefty credit card bills.

Her donations earned her a brief fling with the big time, as she dined with former US President Bill Clinton at the same table and had a reading room at the Washington University named after her.

Eight years after her lucky break, the 60-year-old filed for bankruptcy. She had less than US$700 in her bank account and racked up debts of US$2.5 million.

5. Jeffrey Dampier

Mr Dampier, who was then 31, won the Illinois Lottery with his ex-wife in 1997 and split the US$20 million prize money equally when they divorced.

After remarrying, he moved to Florida and invested in a gourmet popcorn business called Kassie's, while continuing to lavish his family members with presents.

Mr Dampier's sister-in-law Victoria Jackson, with whom he was having an affair, conspired with her boyfriend Nathaniel Jackson to rob him of his money in 2005 - the couple tied him up before she was forced to make a choice by Nathaniel: "Shoot him or I'll shoot you."

She put a bullet in Mr Dampier's head, and both Jacksons were convicted of murder and jailed for life.

6. Callie Rogers


Briton Callie Rogers, who won the lottery when she was 16. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

Ms Rogers was 16 when she became Britain's youngest ever lottery winner in 2003.

The then-teenager from Cumbria blew her new-found £1.9 million (S$2.97m) fortune on drugs, cars, breast implants and luxurious holidays.

As her wealth dwindled, she fell into depression, attempted suicide thrice and flitted with bankruptcy.

She was last heard in 2012 taking on cleaning jobs and lives in a three-bedroom house with her boyfriend and a young son, but declared herself happy with her modest trappings.

Sources: The New York Times, New York Daily News, Time, Daily Mirror