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“Good Lottery Luck Can Go Bad Fast”

Dorell, Oren | USA Today, February 27, 2006


pp. 12 - 13

“Eight workers at a Nebraska meatpacking plant who won the $365 million Powerball jackpot last week may want to take heed of the downside of such good fortune. Not that anyone would turn down such a windfall, but other heavenly jackpots did not lead to paradise. Some big winners have filed for bankruptcy within a few years, been attacked by family members and been besieged by requests from people they didn’t know. Steve Granger, 53, of Henderson, N.C., won $900,000 in the West Virginia Lottery in September. He received about $600,000 after taxes and put most of it away for his and his wife’s retirement. But he says there have been unpleasant moments. ‘All of a sudden everybody knows your business, everybody knows what you have,’ Granger says. At a party recently, Granger heard someone say in an ugly tone, ‘There go those lottery people,’ as he and his wife passed by. A man he hardly knew asked him to invest in a gold mine. ‘I went through a phase where everybody was grabbing me thinking I was going to give them luck,’ he says. Within days of winning a $41 million share of a Powerball jackpot in 2001, Patricia and Erwin Wales of Buxton, Maine, were sued by co-workers who claimed to be co-winners. The lawsuit was dropped, but lawyer Terrance Garney said a new beginning for the clerk and the lawn-maintenance man was ‘not an easy transition.’ The Waleses were beset with requests by friends they didn’t know they had and by investment companies who wanted to handle their money. . . Others have had difficulty with easy money: • William “Bud” Post, who won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania Lottery in 1988, had a brother who tried to have him killed for the inheritance. Post ended up losing or spending all his winnings. He was living off Social Security when he died in January. Two years after winning a $31 million Texas Lottery in 1997, Billie Bob Harrell Jr. committed suicide. He had bought cars, real estate, gave money to his family, church and friends. After his death it was not clear whether there was money left for estate taxes. Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey Lottery twice, in 1985 and 1986, for a total $5.4 million, gambled and gave away all of her money. She was poor by 2001, and living in a trailer. Gerry Beyer, who teaches estate law at Texas Tech University, has written about people who come into sudden wealth – such as lottery winners, sports figures, actors and actresses – and how they end up losing it. Many don’t realize that if they spend their money, rather than investing and living off the earnings, ‘there’s nothing to replace it,’ Beyer says.