Love, lotto, and lunacy: Lottery wins that turned litigious

Love, lotto, and lunacy: Lottery wins that turned litigious

Playing the lottery is a game of chance, and everyone plays to win. Some people play merely to have fun, kill time, or enjoy the adrenaline rush, but ultimately, they want to win the jackpot. If you’ve never won the lottery, don’t be sad. One can win millions of dollars and still end up losing... like these winners.

The lucky jackpot winner was unlucky in love

In 2015, Marie Holmes from North Carolina was a 26-year old struggling single mother with four children, a job in retail, and a feckless fiancé. Her life changed when she won $188 million ($88 million after taxes) in the Powerball lottery.

Winning millions of dollars allowed her to change her life for the better. She made plans to finish college, drastically improve the life of her children, and purchase a home for her mother. She also bought gifts for her then-fiancé Lamarr McDow, including a gold and diamond Rolex watch, and even helped him open an auto repair business.

Ms. Holmes’s win, however, proved that winning is not everything. For starters, because Mr. McDow was in and out of prison for heroin trafficking, she spent around $21 million of her prize to pay for Mr. McDow’s bail. When they broke up in 2017, Mr. McDow sued her from jail after finding out that she gave away the gifts she’s given him, including a Chevy truck, clothes, and acres of land, among other things.

Mr. McDow’s lawsuit essentially aimed to punish Ms. Holmes for failing to act openly and honestly in taking back her gifts. Long story short, Mr. McDow’s suit was meritless, as the things that Ms. Holmes took back were all hers, to begin with.

Ms. Holmes may have been lucky with the lottery and the law, but not so much with her love life.

What’s mine is yours, and what yours is mine (and the taxman’s)

When someone wins the lottery, vultures abound. This was the case in Eva Reyes’s $1 million lottery win from a ticket she bought at a liquor store in California. The liquor store owner sued Ms. Reyes, claiming he was promised half of the winnings. He further stated that he fronted the money used to buy the winning ticket and presented a note stating the fact. Ms. Reyes countered by saying that the agreement was only for $50,000 in case she won.

The prize money would amount to a $350,000 payout (after taxes) for Ms. Reyes and the store owner. But because of the lawsuit, the prize money was substantially reduced. So the real winner here is the taxman.

Similarly, when an Alabama Waffle House waitress won a $10 million lottery jackpot from a ticket that a customer gave her, she could have done any number of things with the money. She could have rebuilt her home or bought several houses across different states. Instead, she shared some of her winnings with some family members and gifted a portion of it to a family business. This, however, resulted in gift taxes and a host of other tax complications.

The chances of winning the lottery are very slim, but in case one does win, there are some tax responsibilities that the lucky (in some cases, unlucky) winner must shoulder. Some judicious tax planning with the help of attorneys could have prevented the tariff troubles.

The legal practitioner who was also a law offender

Speaking of lawyers, lottery winners should hire a lottery lawyer to make sure that their lottery winnings would be subject to minimal tax liabilities. A good lottery attorney should also be able to help jackpot winners keep their identity private to avoid attracting unwanted attention and/or set up a trust, if necessary, to be used to claim winnings. What lottery lawyers are NOT supposed to do is to take advantage of their clients who don’t know what to do with their prize money.

But that’s what New York lottery lawyer Jason Kurland did to several of his clients who were lottery winners. Mr. Kruland’s scam involved making the victims pay him and his cohorts, who have ties to mobs, hundreds of thousands of dollars for investment advice. The victims were essentially scammed into investing their money in a so-called “street loan”, which does not pertain to a loan to be used for road improvements. One party to the scam had difficulties paying off said loans, resulting in threats being thrown and the schemers getting busted.

Mr. Kurland and co. defrauded the victims so he and his cohorts could fly on private jets, take luxurious vacations, and go yachting like they’ve won the lottery and are entitled to its rewards. In the end, the scammers were awarded with money laundering, wire fraud, and wire fraud conspiracy charges.

Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are family law and personal injury attorneys in Washington state. Come to us for personal, dedicated, and winning legal advice.