Lottery Winner Sees Whole Life Change
Written by Timons Esaias
The dust has finally settled, almost two years after William Osiris Wallace won $88 million in the Better Than Theft multi-state Lotto Drawing. How does it feel to have won a $4.4 million-a-year income? "It sure has made a tremendous difference in my lifestyle," Wallace assures his listeners. "No job I have to go to, no mortgage hanging over my head, no boss I have to please...I guess you'd call this real freedom."
While Mr. Wallace, a shift foreman at a manufacturing plant, was surprised at winning the $88 million jackpot, he was even more surprised at the subsequent litigation. "There were more than twenty lawsuits filed against me in less than two weeks," he remembers. "A good part of my first check went to just retaining legal help."
Mr. Wallace, who is and was unmarried, was unpleasantly surprised when his girlfriend at the time demanded half the winnings "because the plaintiff did hold and protect the winning ticket in her purse for more than a day at the request of the alleged winner." Mr. Wallace, hurt by this action, broke off the relationship.
Two of his fellow workers also demanded a cut, a third apiece, because six times in the previous two years they had bought tickets together with Mr. Wallace. While they had not been involved in the winning purchase, their lawyers argued that "there existed a spirit of partnership" between the parties.
Wallace, a life-long High-Tide Baptist, left his church after his minister demanded a percentage for having "held Mr. Wallace in his prayers the week of the drawing." He got this news the same day his ex-mistress filed a suit demanding part of the pot "for services rendered."
An ex-girlfriend communicated privately that she should get at least 10% to "keep quiet about certain matters" and for having introduced him to the habit of playing the lottery.
That wasn't the last of his sudden reunions with people from his past, either. As Mr. Wallace puts it, "Winning the lottery is a very good way to get back in touch with folks you haven't heard from in years. It really fills up your social calendar." For instance, he got a call from his sixth grade math teacher, who reminded him that "all the numbers that he'd used on the winning ticket had come up during class." When Wallace didn't quite see his point, the math teacher called a lawyer.
Even relative strangers were eager to share in his new-found happiness. "The taxi driver who drove me to the lottery office where I bought the ticket recognized my face on TV. And he only wanted 5%."
Not so generous were three neighbors on Mr. Wallace's street at the time. They demanded 75% of his winnings "because they had been playing for years and never won." They also filed suit against the National Weather Service, claiming that "they would have played those exact numbers that very week, if not kept inside by an unpredicted snowstorm that made travel nearly impossible until after the drawing." Mr. Wallace remembers the weather being fair and clear, but his recollections are probably colored by his tremendously good news.
Last week the courts finished settling and dismissing the various cases pending against Mr. Wallace, so he is now free to live the rest of his life undisturbed. Legal costs forced him to sell his house and furniture, including a number of family heirlooms. This was especially awkward as he had lost his job, fired the Monday after the drawing "because my boss didn't want to have to give orders to some millionaire who didn't need the job in the first place." Mr. Wallace has found that employers are unwilling to hire major jackpot winners, fearing that they will not give their best to the job.
Those friends and family members who did not sue him have shut their doors to him because he did not share his good luck with them. As a result, Mr. Wallace finds himself living in his car. "I'll probably have to head South for the winter," he says, "if I can get some money for gas." This may be somewhat difficult, as he has no income except donations that passers-by leave in his little styrofoam coffee cup.
"After the courts were done with me I would have had to turn over my whole lotto check, plus an additional $175,000-a-year. I couldn't afford that, so I declared bankruptcy." His creditors will now have to make do with dividing his remaining $80 million as the checks come in.
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