Below is a list of the people who’ve won the biggest payouts in American lotto history to date. These folks nabbed their 15 minutes of fame and–if they played it smart–the chance to never have to worry about money again. Here’s what they said they planned to do with the money:
1.Merle and Patrica Butler of Red Bud, Illinois and three teachers calling themselves The Three Amigos in Milford Mill, Maryland, as well as an anonymous winner in Ottawa, Kansas, shared the $656 Mega Millions jackpot March 30. That’s $218.6 million each.
Merle and Patricia Butler were the only winners to come forward publicly, and they were coy about how they planned to spend the money, saying only that they’d take the lump sum of $157 million and spend on the advice of their financial planners and attorneys. What savvy folks. Patricia did tell one media outlet that the couple would “do some real good” with at least part of their dough. Doubtless everyone in their town of 3,700 would notice if they built a backyard sauna or turned their home into a McMansion.
2. Eddie Nabors of Dalton, Georgia, and Elaine and Harold Messner of Woodbine, New Jersey, shared Mega Millions on March 6, 2007: $390 million
Nabors, a 52-year-old truck driver, told the Today Show that he planned to buy a house for his daughter so that she could move out of her mobile home, pay off mortgages for his mom, sister, and other family members, and buy a fishing boat for his son. For himself, he reported fairly low-key plans: “I’m going fishing.”
3. Jim and Carolyn McCullar, of Ephrata, Washington, won Mega Millions on Jan. 4, 2011: $380 million
Jim McCullar told reporters that he planned to put his lottery winnings in the bank, write some checks to his six kids, and donate to charity. ”I’m not going to fly all over the world and buy my own jet,” McCullar said in a press conference. “What this means to me is the legacy is going to go generation after generation after generation.”
3. Holly Lahti, of Rathdrum, Idaho, won Mega Millions on Jan. 4, 2011: $380 million
Lahti, a single mother, reportedly quit her job as a customer service representative at a bank–and then practically went into hiding. But her estranged husband, Josh Lahti, wasn’t shy about sharing his opinion on his wife’s winnings. ”That’s awesome! I won’t have to pay child support!” he told the Associated Press when a reporter informed him of his wife’s good fortune.
Turns out Holly had good reason to hide: reporters did some digging and found out that the couple was never legally divorced, or even separated, giving Josh a potential, if tenuous, legal claim on Holly’s lucky ticket.
4. Eight workers from a ConAgra meatpacking plant in Nebraska, won Powerball on Feb. 18, 2006, and shared the winnings: $365 million
Seven men and one woman, whose jobs it was to process hams and corned beef, split the winnings. Three immediately quit their jobs, the Today Show reported. Others, after learning they were now millionaires, reported straight to work for the graveyard shift. Two of the winners were immigrants from Vietnam, one from the Congo. Alain Maboussou, the Congolese immigrant, said he planned to use the money to get a business degree. When the lone female winner was asked if she was married, she responded “No. It’s all mine.”
5. Joe and Sue Kainz of Tower Lakes, Illinois, and Larry and Nancy Ross of Shelby Township, Michigan, won The Big Game on May 9, 2000: $363 million
Mega Millions website. They even spoke with one reporter–without, of course, admitting who they were.
Joe Kainz told reporters he and his wife would pay down debts, put money into their brewery, and fix their home’s leaky roof.
6. Robert and Frances Chaney of Jacksonville, Oregon, and Steve and Carolyn West of Medford, Oregon, won Powerball on October 19, 2005: $340 million
Steve and Carolyn West actually told the world what they did with the money after they’d spent it: People magazine reported that the Wests bought a 6,400-square-f00t home on six acres, complete with a hot tub, a pool and a 30-ft. water slide.
7.Louise White of Newport, Rhode Island, won Powerball onFebruary 11, 2012: $336.4 million
White reportedly kept her winning lottery ticket in her Bible, which she slept with until she could get to a bank and put it in a safety deposit box. She hired attorneys and formed a trust that would benefit her family, dubbing it Rainbow Sherbert Trust–after the frozen treat she bought while purchasing the winning ticket.
8. Kevyn Ogawa in San Gabriel, California, and James “Jimmy” Groves of New York City, shared the Mega Millions winnings on August 28, 2009: $336 million
Groves, who lives in Harlem and worked in Madison Square Gardens, told the New York Post that he was flooded with calls from friends and acquaintances wanting money. ”It’s a dream turned into a nightmare,” he said. “Winning is the beginning. Living with it is pure hell.”
9. Erika Greene, of Dacula, Georgia, a family in Illinois, and a New Jersey resident shared winnings from The Big Game on April 16, 2002: $331 million
Greene, who worked at a cell phone office, showed up at the lottery ticket office in a stretch limousine, and told reporters in Georgia that she planned to buy a car and a house. Greene also said she planned to have someone else call the financial shots for her. ”I’ve studied up on statistics and I am going to have someone handle the money for me,” Greene said. “I’ll make my money work for me instead of blowing it all.”
10. Four tickets in New Jersey, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia won August 31, 2007: $330 million
11. Seven coworkers in Albany, New York, won Mega Millions March 25, 2011: $319 million
The seven I.T. workers reportedly said they’d spend their shared winnings on a dishwasher, tires, and college educations for their kids. But as many as five unlucky coworkers who reportedly passed on the winning round in the team’s lotto pool are probably still kicking themselves.