We all dream of hitting the jackpot, winning the lottery and suddenly coming into an enormous windfall of cash. Perhaps you even know exactly how you'd spent your lotto winnings. I'd buy a house in Los Angeles and one in Hawaii, for instance. I'd buy an SUV and a convertible. It is fun to dream about it. However, more often than not, people who win big lottery money find themselves broke within a few years. That is the case of Jack Whittaker, who won the $315 million jackpot on Christmas Day in 2002. His life changed that day, and not necessarily for the better.
By any measure, $315 million is a heck of a lot of money. When Whittaker won, that was the largest lotto jackpot in history. In 2002, Whittaker was 55 years old and living in West Virginia. Unlike many lottery winners, he was not down on his luck. At the time, he was the president of Diversified Enterprises Construction, a contracting firm. He had a net worth of over $17 million before winning the Powerball. He bought the winning ticket at a supermarket in Hurricane, West Virginia when he stopped to get a breakfast sandwich and put gas in his car. After the win, Whittaker took the $113.4 million cash payout. And then his life went off the rails.
In August 2003, less than a year after Whittaker won the lottery, his car was broken into while it was parked at a West Virginia strip club. The thieves stole $545,000 in cash that he carried around in a suitcase. When he was asked why he would carry that much cash around he said: "Because I can." Now, no one will argue that one. That was a dumb move on his part, but also too true.
Then, at a later date, two employees of the very same strip club plotted to put drugs in Whittaker's drinks to incapacitate him so that they could rob him. They were arrested.
You'd think he would learn his lesson and both stop carrying so much cash around and maybe find another strip club to hang out at. You'd be wrong. In late January 2004, his car was once again broken into. The thieves stole $200,000 in cash, which was recovered.
The hits kept on coming for Whittaker and his family. In September 2004, his granddaughter's on again, off again 18-year-old boyfriend was found dead in Whittaker's West Virginia home. He had overdosed. On December 20th of that same year, his 17-year-old granddaughter Brandi Bragg was found dead after being reported missing 11 days earlier. Her body was wrapped in a plastic tarp and dumped. Drugs were found in her system. The cause of death, however, was undetermined. No one was charged with the crime.
Within four years of his Powerball win, Whittaker was out of money – not just the $113 million lotto money, but also the $17 million he had made himself before the win. He was being sued by Caesar's Atlantic City for bouncing $1.5 million in checks. Those checks were to cover his gambling losses. He counter-sued, claiming that thieves stole all of his money by going to 12 different branches of City National Bank and cashing 12 checks that drained his account.
Then, in July 2009, 42-year-old Ginger Whittaker Bragg, Whittaker's daughter was found dead.
As if all of this isn't bad enough, on December 2nd, his home burned down, is a total loss and was not insured.
Jack Whittaker blames his Powerball win for ruining his life.