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Lottery Curse Victims: 7 People Who Won Big & Lost Everything

Riches-to-Rags Stories of ‘Cursed’ Lottery Winners

Many people think winning the lottery would be the answer to their prayers and the solution to all of their problems — but some winners have had the opposite experience. Despite being lucky enough to win the lottery, they later wished they’d torn up their ticket rather than redeeming it.

It may seem impossible that you could win millions of dollars and wish you hadn’t. But it’s happened often enough that the phenomenon has been dubbed the “lottery curse.”

Don’t believe it? Here are seven victims of the lottery curse — people whose “lucky” win turned sour, leading to divorce, bankruptcy, or even death.

These stories are cautionary tales, but there are plenty of jackpot winners who have gone on to put their money to good use for themselves and their communities. Read through to the end for tips on how to handle a jackpot responsibly and enjoy your winnings.

Jack Whittaker: “Since I Won the Lottery, There’s No Control for Greed”

Unlike many winners, Andrew “Jack” Whittaker was already wealthy when he won the largest jackpot ever awarded to a single Powerball ticket on Christmas morning in 2002. He chose a lump sum payment instead of an annuity, so he took home $113-some million from his $314.9 lottery ticket.  

He added that to the money that he’d earned himself, working his way up from poverty to the owner of a West Virginia contracting company. When he bought the ticket, his company was doing about $15 million a year in contracts.

However, Jack Whittaker found his lottery winnings changed him more than the wealth he’d earned himself did.

Jack Whittaker did a lot of good with the money he won, setting up a charitable foundation, donating money to build churches in West Virginia, and even giving the woman who sold him the winning ticket a new house, a new car, and a pile of cash.

Nevertheless, the lottery curse hit him.

Not all states let winners stay anonymous, and Jack Whittaker’s win was widely publicized. He was deluged with people asking for money and favors.

He developed a habit of leaving large amounts of money in his car, which became widely known. One evening, when he was visiting a strip club, someone stole about half a million dollars out of his car. Later, in a separate incident, $100,000 was stolen from another car.

Furthermore, his company was hit with frivolous lawsuits from people who wanted to get access to deep pockets, costing him millions in legal fees.

Under the strain, Whittaker started to unravel. He started drinking hard and getting into fights. He’d get handsy with women and offer them money to sleep with him or take off their clothes for him.  

But that’s, by far, not the worst of it.

He enjoyed spoiling his granddaughter, Brandi. He gave her a huge allowance and four cars, but his generosity backfired when her wealth attracted a bad crowd.

A boyfriend of Brandi’s died of an overdose in a house Whittaker was developing, and Brandi was implicated. Friends wouldn’t even let her attend the funeral.

A year later, Brandi was found dead under suspicious circumstances, though the case was never solved.

The deaths had devastating consequences for his family. His daughter, Brandi’s mother, was found dead seven years after the jackpot was won. Whittaker’s wife divorced him.

Whittaker lost the people he loved and the money that he won.

“Since I won the lottery, I think there is no control for greed,” Jack Whittaker said. “I think if you have something, there’s always someone else that wants it. I wish I’d torn that ticket up.”

You can read more about Jack Whittaker’s story here: Powerball Winner Says He’s Cursed.

Six victims of the lottery curse: people whose 'lucky' lottery win led to divorce, bankruptcy, or even death.

From Powerball winner to scandal: Jack Whittaker dies at 72

Andrew “Jack” Whittaker Jr., whose life became rife with setbacks and tragedy after winning a record $315 million Powerball jackpot in 2002, has died

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Andrew “Jack” Whittaker Jr., whose life became rife with setbacks and tragedy after winning a record $315 million Powerball jackpot on Christmas night in 2002, has died. He was 72.

The Ronald Meadows Funeral Parlor in Hinton confirmed it. A funeral home official who declined to give his name said Tuesday that Whittaker died of natural causes, but he refused to say when or where, and he said a service would be private.

Whittaker became an instant celebrity at 55 when he claimed what was then the largest U.S. lottery jackpot won by a single ticket. He opted for the lump-sum payout of $113.4 million after taxes, and flew off to New York with his family in a private jet to appear on network TV morning shows.

But he quickly fell victim to scandals, lawsuits and personal setbacks as he endured constant requests for money, leaving him unable to trust others. Several times, he was quoted as saying he wished he had torn up the ticket.

His wife left him. A friend of his drug-addicted granddaughter was found dead at his home in 2004. Three months later, his 17-year-old granddaughter was gone, too.

His daughter, Ginger Whittaker Bragg, died in 2009 at age 42 after struggling for years with cancer.

And in 2016, he lost a Virginia home to a fire.

He struggled with drinking and gambling. His home and car were repeatedly burglarized. At a strip club, thieves broke into his Lincoln Navigator and stole a briefcase stuffed with $245,000 and three $100,000 cashiers’ checks.

That time, at least, he caught a break — the briefcase was later found, with the money still inside.

Whittaker was charged twice with driving while under the influence and sued repeatedly, once by three female casino employees who accused him of assault.

In a 2007 interview with The Associated Press, Whittaker knew his legacy was already written.

“I’m only going to be remembered as the lunatic who won the lottery,” Whittaker said. “I’m not proud of that. I wanted to be remembered as someone who helped a lot of people.”

At that point, Whittaker said he still had plenty of money. How much remained at his death, and who might benefit from his estate, was not immediately clear on Tuesday.

Known for wearing cowboy hats and western-style clothing, Whittaker was a self-made millionaire long before he won the lottery, having built construction businesses worth $17 million.

A regular Powerball player, Whittaker, who then lived in Scott Depot, already had concrete plans to share his prize with churches and his family when he claimed his winnings.

“I’ve had to work for everything in my life. This is the first thing that’s ever been given to me,” Whittaker said then.

A foundation started in Whittaker’s name spent $23 million building two churches in the years after his jackpot win, and his family donated food, clothing and college scholarships to local students.

Whittaker also put his granddaughter, Brandi Bragg, on his payroll. But his plans to give his inheritance to her were vanquished just before Christmas in 2004, when her body was found in a junked van, hidden by a boyfriend who panicked when he found her dead. An autopsy didn’t pinpoint a cause.

“She was going to inherit everything,” Whittaker said.

Andrew “Jack” Whittaker Jr., whose life became rife with setbacks and tragedy after winning a record $315 million Powerball jackpot in 2002, has died ]]>