Big Jackpots, Bigger Tragedies

Think a large cash windfall means no more financial worries? Think again. Celebrities, lottery winners, and even victims of the Septemer 11 attacks have all witnessed the dangers of large cash settlements.

Look below to see for yourself:


I. Celebrity Bankruptcies

Here’s a list of celebrities who brought in millions of dollars only to file bankruptcy because they couldn’t manage what they had:

Burt Reynolds
Movie actor and star of
“Smokey & the Bandit”

Kim Basinger
Movie actress

Toni Braxton

Tom Petty
Rock star

Mike Tyson
Former world heavyweight
champion boxer

Francis Ford Coppola
Hollywood director

Mick Fleetwood
Rock star and founder of
“Fleetwood Mac”

Dorothy Hamill
1976 Olympic gold medalist in
figure skating

M.C. Hammer
Rock star (“Can’t Touch This”)


II. Lottery Jackpots: Blessing... or Curse?

Take a look at this group of lottery winners who thought they had it made:

Jack Whittaker
In December 2002, he won the largest undivided lottery prize in U.S. history. After taxes, he walked away with $113 million. As the Associated Press put it in an January 2007 article:

"Since then, he has faced his granddaughter's death by drug overdose; he has been sued for bouncing checks at Atlantic City, N.J., casinos; he has been ordered to undergo rehab after being arrested on drunken driving charges; his vehicles and business have been burglarized; and he has been sued by the father of an 18-year-old boy, a friend of his granddaughter's, who was found dead in Whittaker's house."

Karen Cohen
Won $1 million in an Illinois lottery in 1982. In 2000, she filed for personal bankruptcy. In October 2005, a federal jury convicted her of lying to the bankruptcy court about receipt of lottery checks in 1997 and 1998. She was sentenced to 22 months in federal prison.

Billie Bob Harrell, Jr.
Won $31 million in a Texas lottery in 1997, but committed suicide less than two years later. According to MSNBC legal reporter Dan Abrams, “One of the reasons? Everyone – family, friends and strangers – had been hitting him up for money.”

William “Bud” Post
Won $16.2 million in a Pennsylvania lottery in 1988. After that, his brother tried to hire a contract murderer to kill him and his sixth wife. His landlady sued him for a portion of the jackpot and he was convicted of assault for firing a gun at a debt collector. He later declared bankruptcy.

"Everybody dreams of winning money, but nobody realizes the nightmares that come out of the woodwork, or the problems," he said in 1993. When he passed away in 2006, The Washington Post headlined his obituary, “The Unhappy Lottery Winner.”

Evelyn Adams
Won the New Jersey Lottery twice, in 1985 and 1986, for a total $5.4 million. According to USA Today, she gambled and gave away all her winnings. By 2001, she was poor and living in a trailer. "I won the American dream but I lost it, too. It was a very hard fall,” she said. “Everybody wanted my money. I never learned one simple word in the English language – 'No.'”

Suzanne Mullins
Won $4.2 million in a Virginia lottery in 1993. Eleven years later, she was sued for nonpayment of a loan. The judge ordered her to pay $154,147, although the attorney for the company suing her told the Associated Press afterwards that his understanding was that she had no assets left.

Shefik Tallmadge
Won $6.7 million in the Arizona lottery in 1988. By 2005, after a string of bad investments, he declared bankruptcy.

Thomas Strong
Won $3 million in a Texas lottery in 1993. Died in a shoot-out with police in 2006.

Victoria Zell
Shared an $11 million Powerball jackpot with her husband in 2001. By February 2006, according to USA Today, her money was gone and she was serving seven years in a Minnesota prison. She was convicted in March 2005 in a drug- and alcohol-induced collision that killed one person and paralyzed another.


III. Financial Tragedy after September 11

Then there are victims of the September 11 attacks who chose large all-cash settlements to compensate for a lost spouse. One widow who chose a one-time payment was Kathy Trant, whose problems and warnings about money management after an accident were profiled on Good Morning America and The New York Post. As The Post described it:

“Sept. 11 widow Kathy Trant has turned her Long Island home into a $2 million showcase, traveled from the Vatican to Las Vegas, blown $500,000 on shoes, and bought breast jobs for pals and even strangers.

“In the 3 1/2 years since her husband, Dan, died in the World Trade Center attacks, she has burned through nearly all the more than $5 million she received in compensation and donations. She says she treated the millions ‘like Monopoly money.’

“The mother of three has become a self-described ‘shopoholic’ - and her compulsive buying has left her with intense guilt, shame and sadness.”

Click HERE to see her story on Good Morning America.

Click HERE for an article from the London Daily Mail about lump-sum cash settlements and September 11 victims.


Structured settlement payments are:

  • Free from federal & state income taxes

  • Tailored to your specific needs

  • Protection against premature dissipation

  • Guaranteed to arrive on time and in full