Whether through winning a large sum or some other factor, there’s no escaping the fact that numerous people’s lives have been irrevocably changed by the lottery. While a good deal are your run-of-the-mill, rags-to-riches lottery stories, there are just as many fascinating, weird or just plain tragic stories out there. Here are some of the most interesting:
Michael Caroll, the self-proclaimed “King of Chavs,” was one of the most notorious lottery winners in history. Caroll, who was 19 when he won the £9,736,131 National Lottery jackpot back in 2012, began living a life of luxury and excessive debauchery as soon as he could get his hands on his winnings. Not only did he buy a mansion, he also spent his winnings on high-end cars, frequent parties, women, and drugs. Oh, and did I mention he also held private demolition derbies using some of the cars he just bought?
Unsurprisingly, after living lavishly without any sort of backup, Carroll—also dubbed as the “Lotto Lout”—eventually lost all his winnings. He went on to work at a biscuit factory in Scotland in 2011, but has since changed jobs. In 2016, he was last seen working at a slaughterhouse, earning a mere £400 a week.
Perhaps one of the most interesting cases involving the lottery is that of Eddie Tipton’s—a former security director at the Multi-State Lottery Association. Tipton, who is an expert in cyber security, took advantage of his position to gain access to secure places—like the Iowa Lottery’s Draw Room—to discreetly install a root-kit program into the RNG machines used by lotteries. The program allowed Tipton and his cohorts—his brother Tommy and a close friend—to predict the winning numbers.
Eddie Tipton, who was finally caught after years of evasion, is now facing up to 25 years in prison. One of lottery biggest cases was cracked wide open because Tipton made one major slip-up—he was caught on camera buying a lottery ticket that contained the suspicious winning numbers.
Stefan is arguably one of the lottery industry’s most successful lottery player. His claim to fame? Winning an astounding 14 wins across various lotteries in different countries. His winning streak started in the 1960’s, when he was a young economist in communist-era Romania.
There, he spent years formulating a way to (legally) ensure a lottery win. He was simply aiming for a second-prize win—with the hopes of getting enough money to leave the country—but, as fate would have it, he ended up winning the jackpot, instead. Soon after, he left for Israel, where he would stay for a bit until moving on to Australia.
It was during his stay in the Land Down Under that he came up with another way to secure a lottery win. His plan was simple, but very ambitious. With the help of investors, he and his team went and bought every number combination in the lottery. He did this—and won—12 times.
Unfortunately, with every win, the Australian government passed law after law that would eventually put Mandel and his team out of business. Realizing that he couldn’t continue his operation without getting in trouble with the law, he set his sights on a US lottery: the Virginia State Lottery.
Realizing the lottery allowed people to print tickets at home, he and his team printed all 7.1 million number combinations in Sydney. They then paid $60,000 to have the tickets shipped to the United States. Then, they waited until the jackpot reached $27 million and enacted their plan.
Cutting deals with store owners in Virginia, Mandel was able to negotiate bulk buys of lottery tickets. That way, his army of ticket buyers could easily submit the printed-out tickets and pay for them using cashier checks. To cut a long story short, Mandel and his team eventually won (despite being 1 million number combinations short).
Mandel and his group walked away with the $27 million jackpot, along with dozens of second and third prizes, no to mention thousands of smaller prizes. It was to be his last successful lottery operation.
Stefan Mandel is currently living in a beach house somewhere in Vanuatu and have put lottery firmly in his past.
Richard Lustig became quite known in the lottery industry during the 1990’s and early 2000’s for winning seven times across different lottery games. His wins were courtesy of scratch-off games, Florida Fantasy 5, and Florida Mega Money. His 7-win streak netted him a total of $1,052,205.58, before taxes.
But that’s not all that’s interesting about Richard Lustig. While his legendary winning streak ended in 2010, Lustig went on to become a best-selling author. His book, “Learn How to Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lottery,” even became the 3rd top selling self-help book on Amazon at one point. That said, many people are skeptical of the tips that Lustig lays out in his 40-page, brochure-sized book.
Richard Lustig is still actively selling his book through his website and, of course, on bookstore shelves. He has also made several appearances on TV shows, radio programs and various live events to talk about his “Winning Lottery Method.”
When Robert “Bob” Erb won the $25 milion LottoMAX jackpot in November 2, 2012, he put aside a whopping $1,000,000 to support a cause near and dear to his heart: marijuana legalization. A proud pothead since the ‘70s, Erb is a known pot activist in his native British Columbia. He was part of the Marijuana Party in 2001, and has been pushing for marijuana legalization almost as long as he has been smoking the herb.
His big win allowed him to spend: $125,000 organizing 420 Day events; $60,000 for any designs needed for the events; $60,000 for accommodation expenses; $40,000 for any relevant merchandise; and $20,000 for advertising of said events. On top of that, Erb has given around $7 to $8 million to various charities, businesses, friends, family, and even complete strangers. He is one extremely generous man.
His current status is unknown—though in 2014, he became somewhat relevant again—albeit indirectly. Emails started spreading around claiming that the generous pothead philanthropist was randomly selecting people on the internet to give a six-figure sum to. It turned out that malevolent individuals used his name to scam people out of their hard-earned money.
Zhao Liqun, former owner of three lottery stalls in Anhan province in China, found a loophole that allowed to easily win the lottery a total of three times. Zhao noticed that, after the winning numbers were drawn, there was a small, 5-minute window that allowed him to purchase a ticket for that same draw. Exploiting this simple loophole, Zhao raked in a total of 28 million yuan—or around $3.76 million.
Zhao Liqun is currently facing a life sentence in prison, with all his property confiscated by the government.
Nick Perry, along with brothers Jack and Peter Maragos, pulled off one of the most infamous lottery scams in the industry. With the help of lettering expert Joseph Bock, Perry—who was the TV host for the Philadelphia lottery draw—and his accomplices gained access to the lottery machine and swapped out the regular lottery balls with the weighted ones.
Each of the fake ball’s weight was precisely calculated so that they won’t be completely sucked out of the machine’s vacuum tube so the balls that Perry and his gang selected would be the ones that got picked at the draw. Sure enough, it was a success. But, it didn’t take long for authorities to catch on and Perry and his accomplices were arrested.
Even more interesting? The incredible story of the 1980 Philadelphia Lottery scandal was turned into a movie starring John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow.
Nick Perry remained in prison until 1989, and held various jobs after getting out. He passed away on April 22, 2003.
Jack Whittaker’s story is one of great tragedy—and it perfectly encapsulates the darker side of winning the lottery. Soon after Whittaker became the sole winner of the $315 million US Powerball jackpot in 2002, his life was beset with bad luck after bad luck.
He was burgled twice; a casino sued him; his company received lawsuits after lawsuits; and a woman even accused him of sexual assault. On top of that, his granddaughter Brandi, whom he had been giving money to, got hooked on drugs and died of an overdose. Brandi’s mother—Jack’s daughter—would also pass away not long after.
In 2016, Whittaker was living in Bland County, Virginia with his wife. Unfortunately, it seems bad luck wasn’t done with him. His house was engulfed in flames on the morning of December 2. It was not insured. Thankfully, the Whittakers survived the ordeal with no injuries.
Jonathan Vargas of Gaston, South Carolina, was only 19 when he won $35.3 million in the US Powerball. Ever the good son, Vargas promptly bought his mother a new house. But what makes him interesting is that he went on to create his own unique TV show that merged his two loves: women and wrestling. Thus, Wrestlicious, a sketch comedy/wrestling show starring scantily clad women, was born in 2009. Unfortunately, it only lasted one season and went off the air in 2010.
Jonathan Vargas’ current whereabouts are currently unknown, though if rumors are to be believed, he went broke after his brief foray into TV production.
In 2009, convicted rapist Edward Putman managed to trick Camelot into believing that he was the legitimate winner of an unclaimed £2.5 million prize. With the help of Giles Knibbs, a friend who used to work at Camelot’s fraud detection department, Putman obtained the details to winning ticket. Using the winning details Knibbs gave him (such as the winning numbers; where it was bought; and when), and purchased a ticket. To trick Camelot, all he had to do was scratch-off the barcode and the date on the ticket. Unbelievably, Camelot didn’t even bother verifying the legitimacy of Putman’s claim and released the prize to him!
Putman was arrested but was let go due to the lack of any hard evidence—especially since Camelot itself “lost” the winning ticket. That said, Putman—who believed that he was completely off the hook—is now bracing for an impending prosecution as fraud detectives have made significant progress into his case.
Aura Dominguez Canto
Aura Dominguez Canto, a 60-year-old pensioner from Panama, became the talk of the lottery industry early this year when she bagged the $30 million Florida Lotto jackpot—without leaving her home! Mrs. Canto, who was still providing for her children, had been having financial troubles prior to her big win. She wanted to retire badly, but her responsibilities took center stage. To make a long story short, she found out about theLotter (Check out my TheLotter Review!); played the same numbers for nearly a month; then, at the eleventh hour, hit the jackpot.
Aura Dominguez Canto’s whereabouts are currently unknown—though it’s a safe bet she’s finally getting the well-deserved retirement she’s been longing for!
Dubbed by local news outlets in China as Mr. Money, the horse mask-wearing man who won the yuan equivalent of $44 million was not the first to don a costume to protect his identity—and he certainly won’t be the last.
What makes Mr. Money interesting—apart from the horse mask—is that he was actually going against his wife’s wishes when he played the lottery. He played nearly every week for two whole years, spending approximately $100 on lottery tickets every time. Fortunately, he won big—lest he face the wrath of his wife!
More interestingly, Mr. Money also planned on setting up a $3.3 million foundation that would reach out and help those in dire need.
Mr. Money’s current whereabouts is unknown.
The Stocklas Bros.
Brothers Bob and James Stocklas both won in the March 4, 2016 draw of the US Powerball—but one ended up winning way more than the other. Pennsylvania Senior District Judge James Stocklas was the sole winner of the $291 million jackpot, while his brother Bob won a measly $7. It’s a good thing James is a generous soul! Not only did he split his prize with two of his friends, he also plans on helping his family and donate to charities.
While James told the press last year that he still plans on going back to work, he doesn’t seem to be working as a senior district judge in Pennsylvania anymore. What the brothers are currently up to is unknown.
Evelyn Adams’ tale is a cautionary one. After winning a total of $5.4 million in two New Jersey lottery draws, she went on a gambling spree that would eventually result in her burning through her entire winnings.
The last update on Evelyn Adams was way back in 2001. At the time she was living in a trailer park and with zero assets to her name.
William Post III
William Post III’s story is both a tragedy and a cautionary tale. In 1988, when he only had $2.46 in his bank account and was living on disability payments, he won $16.2 million at the Pennsylvania lottery. What seemed like good fortune at the time, however, quickly became a parade of reckless spending, bad luck and tragedy.
Shortly after getting his first annual payment, Post went on a ridiculous shopping spree—which involved buy an airplane, a restaurant and a used-car lot. In three months, he racked up $500,000 in debt and by a year, he was $1 million in debt. He also ended up losing money on bad investments; was conned by her landlady; and, to top it all off, his wife and his brother conspired to have him assassinated by a hitman! Eventually, he filed for bankruptcy.
William Post III, 66, passed away due to respiratory failure in 2006.
Clarence Jackson nearly won the $5.8 million Connecticut Lottery jackpot, but ended up with nothing—all because Jackson came forward a few days too late. Despite several pleas, taking legal action against the lottery, and gaining the support of the House of Representatives, it still seems like he is fighting an uphill battle.
Clarence Jackson has yet to be recognized as the official winner of the $5.8 million jackpot. To this day he is still locked in a two-decade long legal battle.
After 25 years of marriage, Denise Rossi filed for divorce from her then-husband Thomas, which came as a complete shock to the latter. It turns out that Denise—having won a $1.3 million lottery jackpot just eleven days prior to filing for divorce—simply wanted the money all to herself.
Eventually, Thomas found out and promptly filed a court injunction against her. She was found guilty of withholding the information during the divorce process, so the judge made Denise pay her ex-husband $66,800 per year, for the next 20 years.
Her current whereabouts and status are unknown, though she is still supposed to be paying her ex-husband Thomas on a yearly basis until 2019.
Erick Onyago & Salvatore Cambria
Erick Onyago and Salvatore Cambria nearly became US Powerball winners back in March 2013. It all started when Erick gave Salvatore one of three Powerball tickets he had just purchased. During the draw, Salvatore saw that the numbers on his ticket didn’t have a match. Dismayed, he threw the lottery ticket in the trash—only to realize later that day that he had been looking at the results for the previous draw!
It turned out that the winning ticket he threw actually matched six of the seven numbers—which meant he was a step closer to becoming a millionaire. Along with his buddy Erick and some hired help, they searched frantically for the lost ticket—even going so far as to trace garbage truck routes. Alas, they never did find it.
The last time buddies Erick Onyago and Salvatore Cambria were in the public eye was back in 2014. The neighbors from Suffern, New York sued the New Jersey lottery in the hopes of getting their $1 million prize. Unfortunately, despite being confident that they could prove they had indeed bought the lost winning ticket, lottery officials never budged.
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