Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another Lottery Winner Wishes He'd Torn Up His Ticket

Today's installment in the ongoing tale of people ruined by lottery riches concerns Jack Whittaker of Scott Depot, West Virginia, who won $113 million in 2002:
Whittaker’s faith that he could handle his enormous lottery winnings with the same qualities of self-reliance, hard work, and aggression that had allowed him to master previous challenges was tragically misplaced. Less than three months after the incident at the Pink Pony, Whittaker was arrested after driving his Hummer into a concrete median on the West Virginia Turnpike. The arresting officer, M.J. Pinardo, reported that he smelled alcohol, but Whittaker refused sobriety tests and became “extremely belligerent.” The police found a small pistol and $117,000 in cash on Whittaker. “It doesn’t bother me, because I can tell everyone to kiss off,” he explained to reporters outside the local courthouse after his arrest. His reply to criticism of his gas-guzzling Hummer was equally succinct: “I won the lottery,” he said. “I don’t care what it costs.”

The cost of Whittaker’s insouciance went up sharply the following year. On Jan. 25, 2004, according to a police report, he got drunk, parked his car in the middle of the street, went away, returned to find that $100,000 he had left on the passenger seat was stolen, and was charged with drunken driving when the police arrived. Vernon Jackson Jr., also from Scott’s Depot, was indicted on charges including breaking and entering an automobile and grand larceny, but it was also possible to imagine that Jackson had simply taken money Whittaker no longer wanted. After all, he’d left the cash out in plain sight on the passenger seat.

Later, Whittaker was arraigned on charges of trying to assault and threatening to kill Todd Parsons, the manager of Billy Sunday’s Bar and Grill in St. Albans, after previously being banned from the establishment. Further lawsuits followed. In March 2004, Whittaker was sued by a floor attendant at the Tri-State Racetrack & Gaming Center in Nitro named Charity Fortner, who claimed he’d forced her head toward his pants while he gambled at the dog track. The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. . . .

Whittaker’s transformation from successful businessman and loving grandfather to disheveled and obnoxious strip-club patron took less than two years and alienated many of his friends and family members—beginning with his wife, who soon filed for divorce.
We all know these stories, but for some reason people keep dreaming of lottery riches and hoping that instant wealth will make them happy.


pootrsox said...

I've often thought about what I'd do w/ big lottery winnings besides pay off every obligation I and my adult daughter have.

I'd give gifts of $1 million or so each to the local library (which is *not* a public library though it's open to the entire public) in my VA county, to the one in the neighboring county, to the Rice's Hotel/Hughlett's Tavern Foundation (as an endowment of some sort)and smaller individual grants to each of its artisans' guilds (w/ special attention to the quilt guild!), to the Lancaster Players earmarked for a new facility w/ the promise of an additional million depending on how much they raise from other sources, to the American Humanist Association, to the Freedom from Religion Foundation... $2 million each to Americans United for Separation of Church and State and ACLU (with additional gifts to CT and VA CLU's.

I would do the obvious: buy several condo's on assorted beaches (Cocoa Beach, Ocean City NJ) and perhaps one in San Diego. I'd fly private jet to visit my kid and my west coast friends.

I'd set up scholarship endowments at the school where I spent my career teaching (for students w/ high averages who commit to majoring in education and to teaching in public schools for 5 years), at Temple U where I got a full ride on an academic scholarship.

I'd make large yearly contributions to the local Education Foundation, which supplies so much enrichment activity that the district cannot afford.

I don't drink. I don't gamble. I might buy a new Subaru turbo-charged Legacy... or I might stick w/ my current one :)

I'd certainly hire local companies to do ongoing yard work and a weekly housekeeping service.

I'd try to find some way of helping certain of my friends whose financial situation is not good but it would have to be w/o their knowing it was my action.

I'd give multiple millions to fund basic research into ALS and AIDS.

It's fun to make up lists like these... I think I'd enjoy being a hundred-millionaire!

John said...

I would pay off my debts and then give every cent away.