Lottery Winners in Debt After Lawsuit

By Sheila Ross


If you had one wish what would it be? Probably, a good number of people would choose to win the lottery. With all that money it sure would be great to buy a new house, drive a fancy car or own a private jet.

The stars lined up in 2015 for Marie Holmes, a poor single mother, who won the North Carolina Powerball lottery that was worth a cool $188 million dollars. However, after a series of events that cost Holmes a lot both financially and emotionally, she made may have wished that she never won the lottery in the first place.

Nobody Better Deserved to Win the Lottery
Nobody deserved to win the lottery more than Marie Holmes. At the time, Holmes was a 26-year-old single mother who worked two jobs to support her four children. It was difficult to work both at McDonald’s and WalMart, but she did whatever it took to take care of her children.


Shortly before Holmes hit the jackpot, she had to leave both jobs as one of her children was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Caring for four children is tough for any couple, especially if one of them has a debilitating disability, but for a single mother the pressure was nearly unbearable. All she wished for was to take care of her children, and now she wasn’t able to hold on to her jobs to provide for them.

One Lucky Day Her Wish Came True
In February 2015, the North Carolina Powerball jackpot was at $564 million dollars, so she got herself a ticket for a few dollars at the local gas station. Not long after she got back to her trailer home, did she find out that she held the winning ticket.


When asked how she felt after winning, Holmes said, “I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I saw the ticket and checked it”. Because two other people also had winning tickets, Holmes only won a third of the jackpot.

Not so Fast
What is the most you have ever won on a lottery ticket? Fifty dollars? A hundred dollars? Because the vast majority of lottery wins are nothing life-changing, the lottery commission authorizes the places that sell lottery tickets to pay winnings up to $599 dollars. All big winners, such as Marie Holmes who had just won $188 million needed to go through a long process to claim their winnings.


Lottery winners need to fill out paperwork to verify the magic ticket, then there is a waiting period for the funds to be dispersed, and lastly, winners need to decide whether they want the money in a lump sum or to receive it in installments over thirty years.

The hardest choice fan overnight multi-millionaire has is whether to take their millions in a lump sum payment or spread it out over a set period of years. Marie Holmes had the option of taking the $188 million spread out over the thirty years or take the lump sum of $127 million dollars. It’s actually not an easy choice as you may think, because the lump payment is worth significantly less. According to experts, it makes financial sense to take the whole lump sum provided and invest it, because with interest it would be more profitable over a thirty period than what the lottery commission offers.


We don’t usually hear about the ones that take the spread out payments, probably because most don’t. If you are lucky enough to beat the improbable odds, then you probably would take the one big oversized check as Holmes did.

Here comes Uncle Sam
Still, from nothing to $127 million isn’t too bad, even though it is a $51 million dollar difference. It makes sense because $1 million is unfathomable to most of us, so $127 million doesn’t look that much different than $188 million. Little did Holmes know that the deductions didn’t end there.


Lottery winnings are taxed as if it were income, both on the federal and state level. On lump sums, the State of North Carolina takes 5.8% and the Federal Government takes a minimum of 25%. Sometimes they can take up to 39.6% if the winnings qualify for the highest tax bracket. Depending on how Ms. Holmes was taxed, she may have had to pay up to $50 million dollars on her winnings.

Noble Plans
Have you ever get asked what you would do if you won a million dollars? Many people might say commendable things such as; donating money to charity, helping out relatives and friends, and investing it wisely. Holmes wasn’t different than any one of us, as she planned to put the money to noble causes. She pledged to donate money to her church, move out of their trailer to a proper house, and to set up college funds for her children.


Emplaning her decisions, Holmes told NBC news station after winning “All the struggle that I ever went through, it was all for them. I want them to understand that money doesn’t change you, but it can help you.”

Nobody Saw it Coming
Ms. Holmes was described as a person who understood the value of a dollar according to her friends and family. After all, she was a single mother who worked two jobs at McDonald's and Wal-Mart to support her four children; one of whom had cerebral palsy. Even though she now had the ability to own a fleet of planes from her lottery winnings, nobody thought she would take it for granted.


Despite all of this, money changes people, especially if it is a case of rags to riches. The person who everyone believed deserved it the most soon would be the one everyone turns on.

Winner Beware
Winners of the lottery need financial counselors much more than already established multi-millionaires who already know how to invest money wisely. With that much money, it seems impossible to ever blow it, but as many financial experts will say that; if it is not properly invested than even this mind-boggling amount of money can disappear in the blink of an eye.


Ms. Holmes understandably had to do things that benefited herself and her children’s standard of life. But there were some very dubious decisions that she made that made her go down the wrong road

The frivolous spending began when she bought her boyfriend, LaMar McDow, a $15,000 diamond laced Rolex. What seems like a penny in a bucket to the amount she won was actually the tip of the iceberg of what her boyfriend ended up taking from her. McDow only has a hundred dollars in his bank account when he was arrested in 2014, and now he had a girlfriend that has the ability to bail him out no matter what the cost.


Denying the allegation that Ms. Holmes spent $21 million on his bails, McDow said, ‘’So many people are going on that she has paid $21 million to get me out of jail, but that ain’t true. It is just 10 percent”.

A New House
McDow used to live with Ms. Homes and the four children in her trailer before being sent to jail in 2014. When he was released from jail, McDow moved into the $350,000 home that Ms. Holmes bought after winning the lottery, according to a report by the Daily Mail.


The report also shed light on how much money Ms. Holmes actually received from the lump sum that she decided to take. After taxes, she received $88 million which is a far fetch from the original $188 million dollars she won. Again, for someone that comes from rags to riches $88 million is still a mind-boggling amount of money, but Ms. Holmes would soon learn that a loss of $100 million dollars makes a big difference.

Can I Borrow Some Money?
What happens next happens is unsurprising. After Ms. Holmes became famous for her lottery winnings, friends, family, and many others were calling her to borrow some money or for a straight up handout. After all, what’s $10,000 for a good friend? What’s a new home for an aunt that bought your favorite toy in preschool?


The couple was constantly beleaguered for their money, even though their friends and family were coming to her with good intentions. It got to the point that every time McDow fielded a call, Holmes would say to him “when money comes there are more problems’’. How right she was.

Wrong Neighborhood
After the big jackpot win, Ms. Holmes and her boyfriend who were persons of color moved out of their trailer home into a very expensive home in an affluent white neighborhood. Sadly, racial prejudice is still alive and well in the world, and the couple was constantly harassed by their neighbors both subtly, and not so subtly.


“One neighbor set up a camera to record everything we were doing. If I was driving down the road and going at the speed limit, they would wave at me for going too fast. They did not want us there. They were prejudiced,” McDow told the Daily Mail.

Tithe to The Church
The Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church was Ms. Holmes’s sanctuary ever since she was a kid. She took the church's teachings to heart and tried to exemplify them in her day to day life. To display her gratitude to God and the church, Ms. Holmes pledged 10%, also known as a ‘tithe’, of her winnings to charity.


Perhaps if Ms. Holmes was able to claim her winnings anonymously, and kept a secret of her charitable donations, then no one would have been able to take advantage of her good heart. Unlike other states, all big lottery winners names are published for the public record in North Carolina by law.

Getting the Ball Rolling
Ten percent of $88 million dollars is a lot of cash, and even the noblest institutions could use that staggering amount of money for unnecessary things. Still, Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church was a strong pillar in her life, and according to a press release, “The first thing she promised was to tithe – or give a tenth of her winnings to charity.”


To get things started she donated $700,000 to the church that she and her family have gone to for years. The church used the money for long overdue needed repairs.

Pastor with An Agenda
A pastor, named Kevin Mathews, who was not affiliated with Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church started to get involved with Ms. Holmes and her family. Even though they did not know him before they won the lottery, the pastor claimed that ''God led him to them''. They believed him, and invited him to their home for ministerial services and to help McDow make better life decisions.


Pastor Mathews felt comfortable enough to ask Ms. Holmes for one and a half million dollars to help him build a retreat. The pastor says that even though the agreement was never put in writing, Ms. Holmes did agree verbally to give him the money. Rather than wait, Pastor Mathews went on to build the retreat with his own money.

Pastor with A Lawsuit
Pastor Mathews came out publicly with the intention to sue Ms. Holmes for $10 million dollars. Where he got that figure from remains a mystery considering the resort cost only 1.5 million. It’s clear though that he was trying to get a large portion of the 10% of Ms. Holmes's winnings that promised to her church and to various other charities.


Considering nothing was put in writing, Kevin Mathews didn’t have much of a case. Brazenly Mathews claimed, “Because of the emotional distress and mental stress, they put me through, I had to start taking more medicine for anxiety and depression due to this situation”.

When the story hit the headlines, the public was outraged at the nerve of the greedy pastor who was going after a noble church-going woman. People called out the fraudster for what he was, and even a YouTuber published a serious of videos titled “F*** You Kevin Matthews’’.


In most probability, any sane lawyer wouldn’t take up the case because there was no written contract between Ms. Holmes and Pastor Mathews. Dubiously, the pastor refused to give his lawyers name to a reporter because the ‘’motion hasn’t been completed’. Sadly, it seems that the greedy pastor just wanted to vilify Ms. Holmes.

Skeletons in The Closet
What came out next in the news headlines was much more devastating to Ms. Holmes and her four children. Somehow it was picked up that her ex-convict boyfriend was cheating on her. Reports kept creeping in that Ms. Holmes chose to pay off McDow's mistresses instead of kicking him to the curb.


A video went viral on Facebook where an unnamed woman claimed that not only was McDow cheating on Ms. Holmes was also taking money from her to pay for ‘sexual favors’ from other women.

Seeking Control
It takes an incredible person whether rich or poor to pick themselves up when misfortune falls. Despite all the wealth and the negative headlines, Ms. Holmes found the strength to not give up. The lottery winner turned to an inspirational woman to help her take control of her life again.


With her life spiraling out of control, Ms. Homes made an appearance on the Iyanla: Fix My Life talk show. The show can be found on the Oprah Network which features relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant, a well-known author, motivational speaker, and a life coach.

A Guarded Secret
Some people choose numbers that are considered lucky for their lottery ticket. It’s not uncommon to find people using their child’s birthday or wedding date on the magic ticket that could change their lives forever.


During Ms. Holmes's appearance on the Iyanla: Fix My Life talk show, her mother made a shocking confession. Fontella was the one who picked the numbers and let her daughter believe that it was her own random numbers that won. “I kept dreaming about your brother that we lost. His birthday, he was the third child, he’d have been 25 that year. Those were the numbers,” she said.

In disbelief, Ms. Homes asked why she didn’t tell her this before? To which her mother answered that ‘’I wanted her daughter and grandchildren to have a better life.’’

The Real Hot Sauce
LaMar McDow is known as 'Hot Sauce' by his fellow gang members and was bailed out three times by Ms. Holmes. McDow was Ms. Holmes’s boyfriend before she won the big dollars, and was in jail at the time for drug charges. Right after Ms. Holmes won, she bailed out her boyfriend to the tune of a three-million-dollar bond. Hot Sauce took advantage of her kindness right away by using her money for his own self-gratification.


Not even a year passed and he was arrested again that July. Once again, her kind heart bailed out the gang member for a six-million-dollar bond. Instead of changing his behavior, McDow continued to cheat on Ms. Holmes and use her money for his exploits. Instead of learning from his mistakes, Hot Sauce was arrested for a third time. Instead of letting him rot in jail, Ms. Holmes bailed him out for a whopping twelve-million-dollar bond.

Boyfriend Takes Down Girlfriend
It seemed inevitable that Ms. Holmes would face serious trouble as long as she stayed with McDow. That day came when McDow was arrested the second time when police were summoned to arrest McDow for violating his mandated curfew. When the police came in, they found marijuana in the house, and also charged Ms. Holmes for possession.
Sadly, this all took place in front of her children.


Marijuana use has become very common in the United States, but sadly the black community are demonized for it and are three times more likely to get arrested for possession. The legalization of recreational marijuana is only offered in ten states, and the use of medical marijuana is allowed in thirty states. Unfortunately for Ms. Holmes, any forms of use are prohibited in North Carolina.

Not a Happy Camper
The three-time convict was not happy that his girlfriend was being bashed in the newspapers for posting his bail three times. McDow told the Daily Mail, “We are a couple, and I am the father of her youngest child. This is what people do for each other. She has the money and she can do what she wants with it.”


“If I had that money then I would do the same for her. People are just jealous because of how much she won and people want to see me locked in jail,” he said.

In the middle of taping Iyanla: Fix My Life, two more bad things made headlines. After her mother confessed to what happened with the numbers on the lottery ticket, relatives and friends started to accuse Ms. Holmes of stealing the ticket from her mother. It did not matter to them that Fontella said on the show that she gave it willingly.

Ms. Holmes also found out during the taping of the show that her boyfriend was heading back to jail to serve a seven-year sentence for possession and distribution of heroin. Ever since the day her lucky numbers were called so many bad things had befallen her. Most people would break, but not Ms. Holmes.

A Promise Fulfilled
Despite questionable decisions on her part, Ms. Holmes still kept her integrity. She fulfilled her promise of giving 10% of her winnings to various which equated to $9.7 million dollars. Part of the tithed money was used to set up a charitable foundation in North Carolina called The Marie Holmes Foundation.

The foundation is mirrored after her life’s experiences before winning the lottery. As a single mother who worked two very low wage jobs, it was very difficult for Ms. Holmes to provide for her four children, especially with the medical bills for the child that has cerebral palsy. The Marie Holmes Foundation provides for underprivileged children and struggling families. The charity often holds large events where school supplies and toys for the holiday season are given out.

Isn't She a Christian
Ms. Holmes is a devout Catholic which could make it strange to some that she even bought a ticket, because the Christian church frowns upon gambling. But it’s hypocritic to believe so according to one pastor who told the Christian Post, “You can’t be against the lottery, but your youth department is doing a RAFFLE! Same thing pastor. SAME THING!”


“You can’t be against the lottery and you have a prize of $500 for whoever brings the most people on family and friends day,’’ he said.

Money Is the Devil
In the same article in the Christian Post, another pastor cited biblical sources that indicated that money is the source of evil, “Now, having said that, let me tell you that the biblical principles that would dissuade a Christian from gambling are several. First, we must guard against our love of money.’’


“In Scripture, there are instances of casting lots but usually not for material gain. It rather emphasizes the sovereignty of God. For example, Proverbs 16:33 says ‘'The lot is cast into the lap but it’s every decision is from the Lord,” he said.

A Word of Advice
In this story, Ms. Holmes went from rags to riches in a very short period of time, and a few good things and many bad things followed suit. If you happen to win big in the lottery, we suggest to read this story first and take it to heart. Make sure you understand the tax laws and processes before opting to take the lump sum, make sure the ticket is signed by you to avoid accusations of theft, and make sure cash the ticket in before it expires.

Another word of advice. It’s ok to use the money to improve your quality of life, but make sure to hire a good financial advisor who understands the financial market. Such an advisor will be able to provide you with sound instruction on how to protect your money.

Lessons learned
Chances are you aren’t going to win the lottery a second time. Be careful, because even though millions seem impossible to blow in one lifetime; it can happen in a blink of an eye. Besides the government taking a big chunk of your money, unpaid debts can bring you down real fast.

Lastly, expect to be harassed by family members, friends, and even strangers. It's wise to not flaunt your money in peoples faces, and try to stay as anonymous as possible when helping other people out.

Originally Published: