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From Everything to Nothing: Lottery Winners End up Facing Criminal Charges?

A picture of slot machines inside a casino.
Whether you’re playing against the house in a casino or buying lottery tickets in the gas station, winning won’t make all your dreams come true.

Everybody wants to win the lottery! And who wouldn’t – the classic American dream. Picking the winning numbers and suddenly having more cash than you know what to do with. Sounds like a dream come true doesn’t it. Until you read the stats and discover that more than 70% of lottery winners in the US end up bankrupt within 5 years. 

Wait, what?! How is that possible? How can anyone go from having it all to having nothing in that short window of time? And what happens when you do? (Interestingly, a number of former lottery winners have turned to a life of crime in the wake of their winnings, when their poor choices can’t sustain the lifestyle they’re suddenly accustomed to. So let’s take a look at that…

Like this Michigan lottery winning couple, accused of burglary!

Stephanie Harvell and Mitchell Arnswald won $500,000 from the Michigan Lottery in 2016. Prior to winning, they were in a tough place, having just lost their car and been evicted from their home. At the time, she told media sources she planned to put the money towards getting her life back in order. But three years later the money is all gone, and the couple is sitting behind bars facing burglary charges in a Michigan jail.

According to police, a months-long burglary spree started at the beginning of this summer, where unoccupied homes were targeted during the daytime. The homes broken into were located in Bay, Midland, Saginaw, Arenac and Tuscola Counties. It took months but police were finally able to piece together a description of the vehicle involved and tie it to the lottery-winners. When police officers finally arrested them in a grocery store and searched their vehicle, they found numerous items missing from nearby homes. So what gives?

How does it happen? Why do millionaires become desperate criminals?

According to Steve Lewit, CEO of Wealth Financial Group in Chicago, the problem lies with starting out with nothing, and suddenly having everything, but having no idea how to manage it properly. “People who were little, ordinary people all of a sudden become extraordinary. They’re euphoric. They lose all sense of reality. They think they’re invincible and powerful. They think they’re Superman.” But the money eventually runs out, and suddenly they’re faced with the harsh reality of poverty all over again. And that’s when desperate measures suddenly seem like reasonable ideas.

Like Ronnie Music, Jr. of Waycross, Georgia, who won $3 million from the lottery and ended up behind bars for trafficking thousands of dollars worth of crystal meth. And Amanda Clayton, who won $1 million on the Michigan lottery game show Make Me Rich, who was later charged with felony fraud when she continued to receive welfare benefits from the state of Michigan after winning the money. And good old William Bud Post III, who won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery. It only took one year before he was $1 million in debt and was being pursued by creditors. He ended up in jail for firing a gun over the head of a bill collector trying to collect from his home. Attorney Chuck Kronzek at The Kronzek Firm has personal experience representing lottery winners that have “lost it all”. It still amazes us every time. 

What should you do if you win the lottery in Michigan?

It’s a depressing litany of poor financial choices and bad money management skills. So how does one avoid this disastrous end? First, hire a financial manager (a reputable one!) and then follow their advice. Limit big-spending impulses, don’t give away huge portions of your wealth to “friends” who suddenly pop out of the woodwork expecting handouts, and make sure you keep a sizable portion of your winnings in a savings account that you won’t access.

And finally, make sure you set some aside for your attorney fees. Because whether it’s allegations of fraud, claims of sexual assault, or supposed drug crimes, you may need legal help at some point down the road. And when you do, call 866 766 5245 and our hard-working and aggressive criminal defense attorneys can step in to protect your rights, and ensure that your case achieves the best outcome.

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