You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

How one $19-million lottery winner went from Bentleys to bank robberies

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 2/10/2018 Shawn Langlois

a close up of a piece of paper: Careful what you wish for. © Provided by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Careful what you wish for.

According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, about 70% of those who receive a sudden cash windfall will lose it within a few years. There’s no percentage figure, however, for how many of them turn into bank robbers.

That’s Jim Hayes, via an email sent to the Daily Beast from prison, reflecting on what led him to a life of drugs and crime after winning a $19-million jackpot decades prior. He was 35 years old in 1998, working the graveyard shift as a security guard when he bought the Quick Pick lottery ticket that would forever change his life... and not for the better.

The odds of winning were 1 in 18,009,460.

“I know I’ll change but only for the better,” he told the Los Angeles Times after discovering that he, indeed, had the winning ticket. “Mainly what I want to do is help out my family and friends in need. I’m not going to blow the money.”

Hayes took home $13.7 million, after taxes, the Daily Beast reported. It came in 20 annual payments of $684,000.

It’s not hard to see where it all went wrong. When his windfall hit, Hayes immediately began tossing wads of cash around like Floyd Mayweather on a bender, spending big on Lambos, Bentleys, million-dollar oceanfront condos, fancy Vegas trips, etc. You name it, Hayes wasted money on it.

The fun didn’t last long. He would turn to prescription pills — Vicodin, Norco, Oxy — after a surgery failed to ease the pain of three herniated discs in his back. He says he was an addict and didn’t know it. Soon, the California Lottery would begin withholding some of the checks, as alimony payments, bad business decisions and his irresponsible spending added to his mounting debt burden.

He filed for bankruptcy in 2007.

The money was running out, but his addiction was unrelenting, so he turned to crime. By the time he was arrested in 2017, he’d robbed 10 banks in the L.A. and Santa Barbara areas, making off with almost $40,000. He was sentenced to 33 months in jail, with three years of supervised release and $39,424 in restitution.

If there’s a silver lining to the story, it came behind bars.

“Prison is the most horrible thing ever but I’m thankful it happened. It saved my life. I should have overdosed 100 times — and now I’m eight months sober,” Hayes told the Daily Beast. “They should have a mandatory class on what to do when you win... Because money doesn’t equal happiness — it can really screw up your life.” 

Hayes gets out in 2020 and says he wants to publish a memoir.

Pictures: 20 lottery winners who lost it all

More from Marketwatch

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon