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Originally Posted: Feb 27,2005

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Lottery winnings bring heartache
By Gary Taylor
Orlando Sentinel Staff Writer

February 27, 2005: Robert Swofford Jr. had $35 million in Florida Lotto winnings, and his soon-to-be ex-wife wanted a piece of it.

Swofford solved that problem, but now he's got another one: The ex-wife's sister wants a cut, too, and she's taking him to court to get it.

The way Mary Lackey sees it, she deserves part of the money every bit as much as her sister Ann did. And some folks might agree she has a point. Swofford fathered children by both women in 1993. Mary Lackey says she wants the money for her daughter.

Other lottery winners have made headlines squabbling with relatives, friends or co-workers over their winnings. Stories of lawsuits, divorce, overindulgence and family feuds are an expected chapter of the get-rich-quick tales of random, newfound wealth. But even by those well-worn standards, the case of Swofford and the Lackey sisters stands out.

Swofford was a married man in 1993, though he was married to neither of the Lackey sisters. Swofford eventually shared a home with both Ann and Mary and their children. They even had a family portrait of the five made by Olan Mills.

He would later marry Ann. In their divorce agreement, she got $5.25 million of the Lotto jackpot and their 11-year-old son got $1 million. Swofford's take after taxes was about $16.75 million.

Mary Lackey was given nothing, so she is suing him in state Circuit Court in Sanford. She hopes to force Swofford to provide child support consistent with his income and net worth.

Swofford's case is unusual because of the relationships. But there is nothing rare about family and friends being torn apart over the fight to share lottery prizes.

"When you have a windfall, it doesn't change who you are," said Susan Bradley, founder of the Sudden Money Institute in Palm Beach Gardens and author of Sudden Money: Managing a Financial Windfall.

"You are who you are," said Bradley, a financial planner for more than 20 years. "You have lost the life you lived up until that day. It's more an emotional change than the money."

Swofford hit the jackpot on Thanksgiving eve, but he never tried to hide his good luck from his wife, even though he and Ann had been separated for about three years.

He remembered, though only vaguely, news reports of a lottery winner in California losing her winnings because she hid them during divorce proceedings. He said he wasn't about to let that happen to him.

In that California case, Denise Rossi had used her mother's mailing address when she claimed $1.3 million, payable over 20 years, that she won in a lottery pool at work. Then she filed for divorce.

Two years later, her ex-husband, Thomas Rossi, learned about the jackpot when a letter addressed to her, offering a lump-sum buyout of her winnings, came to his house.

He went back to court, and a judge awarded him all of the remaining jackpot.

Not everyone has the benefit of California's tough divorce-disclosure laws.

Consider Nynna Ionson. Her husband, Raymond Sobeski, bought a Super 7 lottery ticket in 2003 that would make him Ontario's biggest lottery winner once he claimed the $30 million jackpot.

While Florida residents have 180 days to claim a prize, Sobeski's ticket was valid for a year. And that's how long he waited before cashing in the ticket. His claim also came just after they divorced.

Ionson, who supports her three children on income of $600 a month, sued. She is seeking a lump-sum payment of $500,000 plus $10,000 a month. The case is pending.

In many states, lottery tickets purchased during a marriage become community property, according to research by, an online source of information for people contemplating divorce.

One such case involved Bernice Heslop of North Miami, who won a $28.5 million Florida Lotto jackpot in 1995, five years after she and her husband, Ernest Moore, had separated but not divorced. The two reached a settlement, which is confidential. Said Moore's attorney, West Palm Beach lawyer Bruce Ramsey: "Ernest was extremely pleased."

Certainly, a huge lottery win doesn't always equal happiness.

Andrew "Jack" Whittaker of Scott Depot, W.Va., was already a wealthy contractor when he won a $314.9 million Powerball jackpot on Christmas Day 2002 to become the biggest undivided jackpot winner in U.S. history. Since then, he has been arrested twice for drunken driving, pleaded no contest to attacking a bar manager and ordered into rehab.

Whittaker gave his 17-year-old granddaughter, Brandi Bragg, enough money to get her own place, a Cadillac and a Hummer. She was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in December.

Then there is Billie Bob Harrell Jr., who won a $31 million jackpot in Texas in 1997. Less than two years later, he took his own life. Everyone -- family, friends and strangers -- had been hitting him up for money, and his already-strained marriage was falling apart.

Indeed, the lure of lottery's millions can make people desperate.

Elecia Battle of Cleveland claimed to have bought then lost a Mega Millions lottery ticket that won $162 million in 2003. But days after the drawing, Rebecca Jemison of South Euclid, Ohio, produced the winning ticket and claimed the jackpot.

Battle sued to block payment but then apologized. She was found guilty of filing a false police report, fined $1,000 and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service. She also had to pay almost $5,600 in restitution to the South Euclid Police Department.

Robert Swofford doesn't deny that he is the father of the Lackey sisters' children, but he refutes Mary Lackey's allegations that he is not providing for their 12-year-old daughter. Swofford, who was a forklift driver at a postal center in Lake Mary, said he voluntarily paid child support of $200 a month before winning the jackpot. He increased that to $2,000 a month after striking it rich.

What's more, Swofford said the "generous" amount given to his ex-wife took into consideration that Mary Lackey and both children also lived in the house.

"My sister did not agree to that," Mary Lackey said. "I don't think my sister should have to share what she got.

"I want him to do what's right by my daughter," she said.

Since the suit, Swofford said, he refuses to pay Mary Lackey anything.

Gary Taylor can be reached at or 407-772-8040.

Copyright © 2005, Orlando Sentinel

Men who tossed ticket now seek prize

Indianapolis Star
Associated Press
February 25, 2005

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. -- Two men who say they bought a scratch-off lottery ticket and threw it away are seeking the $100,000 prize a woman claimed after she plucked it from a cafe's trash can.

The men -- Ron Douglas of Waldron and Ron Vinson of Shelbyville -- have hired a lawyer who said he sent a formal request to Hoosier Lottery officials for a $100,000 payment.

Attorney Lee McNeely said he also talked about the situation with Ellen Corcella, the lottery's security director.

"The letter that I forwarded to them offered to meet with them at their earliest convenience to work this out in an amicable fashion," McNeely told The Shelbyville News for a story Thursday.

The ticket was tossed into the trash at the Chaperral Cafe on Feb. 8 after a clerk told Douglas and Vinson that the $5 ticket wasn't the $40 winner they were hoping it was, lottery officials said.

Customer Karrie Jeremiah said she then retrieved the ticket, planning to enter it into a second-chance drawing before later finding out it was a big winner.

Lottery officials on Feb. 10 issued Jeremiah a check for $71,600 -- the amount after taxes were withheld.

Corcella has said the lottery was looking into the circumstances surrounding how the ticket was discarded in the city about 20 miles southeast of Indianapolis, but believed Jeremiah was the rightful winner.

McNeely said his clients believe they were entitled to the money because of "what we believe is a faulty scanning procedure on the lottery machines."

Note from the Lotto Report
Retailers should not be allowed to check players tickets for them. This was one of my Sunset recommendations for the Texas Legislature and is an issue that I've complained about for years. Lottery terminals err and clerks DO take advantage of ignorant players.

To protect lottery players, all states should pass laws forbidding retailers to check players lottery tickets. Retailers would like this too as it would cut back on their workloads. The only time a retailer should check a ticket is IF the player says, "I have a winner. Would you pay me?"

Attention Smart Players - Start testing clerks & terminals with your winning tickets. As soon as you find one that tells you your ticket is not a winner but you know that it is - Sue either the store or G-Tech. It would only take a couple of filed lawsuits to correct this problem! Be sure and call the media too!

Another story for you to read - "Clerks steal Powerball ticket." Click here.

Judge OKs lottery winner's DUI charge

Kansas City Star
Associated Press
Wed, Feb. 23, 2005

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A judge agreed to allow a drunken driving charge to be refiled against a man who won nearly $315 million in the Powerball lottery - the largest single jackpot in history.

Jack Whittaker was arrested for alleged drunken driving in December, two days after being released on bail in another DUI arrest.

A judge later dismissed the second charge because prosecutors failed to bring a state police chemist to a pretrial hearing. In response to a petition from prosecutors, Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ruled Tuesday that the charges can be refiled. But he said the case cannot include evidence relating to a breath test.

Whittaker, 57, could face 10 days in jail if convicted of bail violation.

Whittaker has experienced a series of misfortunes since he won the Powerball jackpot on Christmas Day 2002.

His 17-year-old granddaughter, Brandi Bragg, was found dead in December of a possible drug overdose. Three months earlier, her 18-year-old friend was found dead in Whittaker's house from an overdose. Both deaths remain under investigation.

Three racetrack workers sued Whittaker, alleging that he assaulted them in 2003, and his vehicle, business and home have allegedly been broken into multiple times.

Texas Lottery Denies Cheating Lotto Texas Winners
But excerpts from Commission Meetings refutes the TLC claims
of innocence. The complete story including a winners complaint letter
to the DA. (Special note to those winners who called inquiring about
the way you were paid - your suspicions. I've included a spreadsheet
that includes the rate that was applicable at the time of your win
so you can now figure out if you received your full amount.
) Click here.

Sad but True Winners Stories (1), Click here

Read story about a Texas $31 million winner
who committed suicide (1999). Click here.

Sad but True Winners Stories (AOL), Click here.

One Winner - One Loser - What a story.
Everyone should read this one.
Three other stories
include an interview with a winner, a news story
regarding the Oct 13 Lotto Texas machine malfunction
and the huge sales decline for New York's in state
Lotto game since joining MM.
Click here.

Store Owners and Employees Admit Stealing
$100,000 Powerball Ticket ...
Don't let this happen
to you. Click here.

Canada Has A Gambling Problem. And so will Texas.
Governments hooked on gambling. Here's WHY we need to oppose
expanded gambling in Texas and why the TLC turns me OFF.
Click here

About that 2005 Texas Lottery Demographics Study.
See what the "real" truth was! A Texas Tech Study. Click here.

Thank You Dallas Morning News ... Their study of lottery sales
by districts confirms who really plays the games of Texas. Click here.

Just point and click ...

The Lotto Report
Dawn Nettles
P. O. Box 495033
Garland, Texas 75049-5033
(972) 686-0660
(972) 681-1048 Fax