debt

8 big lottery winners whose money and luck ran out

Playing Santa Claus
Playing Santa Claus | James Baigrie/Getty Images

Playing Santa Claus

Winning a $31 million Texas Lottery jackpot in 1997 initially looked to be a cure-all for Billie Bob Harrell Jr.'s financial woes.

With his $1.2 million annual payments, he paid bills, purchased new cars and homes for family, and bought nearly 500 turkeys for the poor.

"He played Santa Claus," his mother told People magazine.

But the endless pressure of strangers asking for money took a toll. Harrell was forced to change his home phone number more than once. He and his wife separated.

Then, less than two years after he hit the jackpot, Harrell took his own life, according to media accounts.

"After you win the lottery," says attorney Rhoades, "one of the first things to do is put together a list of people you trust and make one of them a buffer -- someone who will deal with those who come out of the woodwork, because you now have a target on your wallet."

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