Mega Millions: Lucky Numbers Not Always so Lucky

You beat the one in a million odds and are holding the winning ticket. Now you can sick back and relax because the rest of your life will be a fairy tale. Lucky you, right?

Not quite.

Winning the lottery doesn’t always mean you are the luckiest person in the world. There are many stories of winners who’ve blown their cash on gambling, drugs or over-the-top shopping. It doesn’t seem to help relationships either, since many winners have ended up divorced.

And those were the lucky ones.

Here are some seemingly lucky folks who went from mega millions, to mega losers.

Juan Rodriguez

Rodriguez, a Colombian immigrant, was in the brink of bankruptcy in 2004 and working a low-paying job as a parking attendant when he blew his last dollar on a lottery ticket. He ended up winning a $149 million prize, and took home a lump sum of $88 million.

Ten days later his wife, Iris, filed for divorce and sued for half the winnings. She filed for an injunction preventing him from touching the jackpot until they reached a settlement, which tied up the million for years. He was forced to hire bodyguards to protect his family in Colombia because they were in danger of being kidnapped.

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Jose Antonio Cua-Toc

In 2010, an undocumented immigrant in Georgia named Jose Antonia Cua-Toc won a $750,000 lottery – but gave it to his boss to cash it in because he feared being deported.

His boss, Erick Cervantes, ended up firing him, pocketing the money and accusing him of making terroristic threats. Cua-Toc was jailed for the alleged threats.

Cua-Toc, a 27-year-old from Guatemala, sued for his award and won the suit two years later. He was awarded $750,000, about $500,000 after taxes, plus $207,000 in attorney fees.

When he won, Cua-Toc was serving a 44-day sentence for drunk driving. He could still face deportation.

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Americo Lopes

New Jersey resident Americo Lopes claimed a $24 million Mega Millions prize in November 2009 to much hoopla. He looked to move out of his working-class neighborhood in Elizabeth, N.J. and move to a million-dollar home.

A year later, five co-workers sued him for their share of the jackpot, which they said they won together.

Earlier this year, a jury ruled against Lopes and ordered him to give $20 million to his co-workers, leaving him with $4 million. He was later sued by a homeowner who said Lopes promised to buy a house from him, but then reneged after the jury took most of his money.

The plaintiff said he ended up losing money on the house. That case is still pending.

Jack Whittacker

He won a record $314 million jackpot in 2002 and took a one-time payout of $114 million, after taxes.

But then, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash were stolen in his house, cars and office. He had a slew of arrests for assaulting a bar manager, groping a woman at a dog track and several for drunken driving. He had to pay off a number of lawsuits, including one for the wrongful death of his teen granddaughter’s boyfriend, who died in his home.

He ended up broke just five years after his big win. He has said he wishes he had torn up the ticket.

Vivian Nicholson

In 1961, a young woman became an overnight sensation in Britain after she won about £152,000 pounds (it would be close to US $5 million today, adjusted for inflation). She told the press she was going to “spend, spend, spend.”

She became alienated from all her friends because she could no longer relate to them and just four years later, after her husband died in a car crash, her fortune decimated to nothing. She declared bankruptcy in 1965. She later told a British newspaper she became an alcoholic.

Amanda Clayton

A 24-year-old Detroit woman won $1 million in a Michigan state lottery game and received a $700,000 lump sum. She made headlines afterward after she kept trying to receive food stamps. She claimed since she was a mother of two, unemployed, and had to pay her debt so she still should have been entitled to collect welfare. The Department of Human Services dropped her from the program 10 days later.

Critics called for her arrest, though Clayton never faced charges.

Abraham Shakespeare

A 43-year-old truck driver’s assistant won $30 million in the Florida lottery in 2006, then vanished years later. Police believe Shakespeare was killed.

He had taken a $16.9 million payout, and bought a new car, a Rolex and a $1 million home and promised to start a foundation for the poor.

He was eventually sued by a co-worker who accused him of stealing the winning ticket. Shakespeare won the lawsuit but said hangers-on were constantly asking for a piece of his fortune. He hasn’t been seen in years.

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Janite Lee

The South Korean Immigrant won $18 million in St. Louis in 1993 and lived the good life, for eight years. She bought a huge home, dined with world leaders (including President Bill Clinton) and gave much of her winnings to politics, education and the community. Washington University’s law school named a reading room after her.

Gambling and credit card debt drained her money. So did friends who kept asking for loans they wouldn’t pay back.

In 2001, she filed for bankruptcy and had $700 left in her bank account.

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