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Florida Lotto winner sued — again

Florida LotteryFlorida Lottery: Florida Lotto winner sued — again

Robert Swofford Jr. had $35 million in Florida Lotto winnings, and his soon-to-be ex-wife wanted a piece of it.

Swofford solved that problem, but now he's got another one: The ex-wife's sister wants a cut, too, and she's taking him to court to get it.

The way Mary Lackey sees it, she deserves part of the money every bit as much as her sister Ann did. And some folks might agree she has a point. Swofford fathered children by both women in 1993. Mary Lackey says she wants the money for her daughter.

Other lottery winners have made headlines squabbling with relatives, friends or co-workers over their winnings. Stories of lawsuits, divorce, overindulgence and family feuds are an expected chapter of the get-rich-quick tales of random, newfound wealth. But even by those well-worn standards, the case of Swofford and the Lackey sisters stands out.

Swofford was a married man in 1993, though he was married to neither of the Lackey sisters. Swofford eventually shared a home with both Ann and Mary and their children. They even had a family portrait of the five made by Olan Mills.

He would later marry Ann. In their divorce agreement, she got $5.25 million of the Lotto jackpot and their 11-year-old son got $1 million. Swofford's take after taxes was about $16.75 million.

Mary Lackey was given nothing, so she is suing him in state Circuit Court in Sanford. She hopes to force Swofford to provide child support consistent with his income and net worth.

Swofford's case is unusual because of the relationships. But there is nothing rare about family and friends being torn apart over the fight to share lottery prizes.

"When you have a windfall, it doesn't change who you are," said Susan Bradley, founder of the Sudden Money Institute in Palm Beach Gardens and author of Sudden Money: Managing a Financial Windfall.

"You are who you are," said Bradley, a financial planner for more than 20 years. "You have lost the life you lived up until that day. It's more an emotional change than the money."

Swofford hit the jackpot on Thanksgiving eve, but he never tried to hide his good luck from his wife, even though he and Ann had been separated for about three years.

He remembered, though only vaguely, news reports of a lottery winner in California losing her winnings because she hid them during divorce proceedings. He said he wasn't about to let that happen to him.

In that California case, Denise Rossi had used her mother's mailing address when she claimed $1.3 million, payable over 20 years, that she won in a lottery pool at work. Then she filed for divorce.

Two years later, her ex-husband, Thomas Rossi, learned about the jackpot when a letter addressed to her, offering a lump-sum buyout of her winnings, came to his house.

He went back to court, and a judge awarded him all of the remaining jackpot.

Not everyone has the benefit of California's tough divorce-disclosure laws.

Consider Nynna Ionson. Her husband, Raymond Sobeski, bought a Super 7 lottery ticket in 2003 that would make him Ontario's biggest lottery winner once he claimed the $30 million jackpot.

While Florida residents have 180 days to claim a prize, Sobeski's ticket was valid for a year. And that's how long he waited before cashing in the ticket. His claim also came just after they divorced.

Ionson, who supports her three children on income of $600 a month, sued. She is seeking a lump-sum payment of $500,000 plus $10,000 a month. The case is pending.

In many states, lottery tickets purchased during a marriage become community property, according to research by divorcesource.com, an online source of information for people contemplating divorce.

One such case involved Bernice Heslop of North Miami, who won a $28.5 million Florida Lotto jackpot in 1995, five years after she and her husband, Ernest Moore, had separated but not divorced. The two reached a settlement, which is confidential. Said Moore's attorney, West Palm Beach lawyer Bruce Ramsey: "Ernest was extremely pleased."

Certainly, a huge lottery win doesn't always equal happiness.

Andrew "Jack" Whittaker of Scott Depot, W.Va., was already a wealthy contractor when he won a $314.9 million Powerball jackpot on Christmas Day 2002 to become the biggest undivided jackpot winner in U.S. history. Since then, he has been arrested twice for drunken driving, pleaded no contest to attacking a bar manager and ordered into rehab.

Whittaker gave his 17-year-old granddaughter, Brandi Bragg, enough money to get her own place, a Cadillac and a Hummer. She was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in December.

Then there is Billie Bob Harrell Jr., who won a $31 million jackpot in Texas in 1997. Less than two years later, he took his own life. Everyone -- family, friends and strangers -- had been hitting him up for money, and his already-strained marriage was falling apart.

Indeed, the lure of lottery's millions can make people desperate.

Elecia Battle of Cleveland claimed to have bought then lost a Mega Millions lottery ticket that won $162 million in 2003. But days after the drawing, Rebecca Jemison of South Euclid, Ohio, produced the winning ticket and claimed the jackpot.

Battle sued to block payment but then apologized. She was found guilty of filing a false police report, fined $1,000 and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service. She also had to pay almost $5,600 in restitution to the South Euclid Police Department.

Robert Swofford doesn't deny that he is the father of the Lackey sisters' children, but he refutes Mary Lackey's allegations that he is not providing for their 12-year-old daughter. Swofford, who was a forklift driver at a postal center in Lake Mary, said he voluntarily paid child support of $200 a month before winning the jackpot. He increased that to $2,000 a month after striking it rich.

What's more, Swofford said the "generous" amount given to his ex-wife took into consideration that Mary Lackey and both children also lived in the house.

"My sister did not agree to that," Mary Lackey said. "I don't think my sister should have to share what she got.

"I want him to do what's right by my daughter," she said.

Since the suit, Swofford said, he refuses to pay Mary Lackey anything.


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11 comments. Last comment 12 years ago by Todd.
Page 1 of 1
RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
United States
Member #9
March 24, 2001
20067 Posts
Posted: February 28, 2005, 11:25 am - IP Logged

If you have any money at all, there's someone somewhere who thinks he/she deserves to have some of it.  Winning a lottery and getting your name in the news just makes it easier for more of those folks to find you.


 * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
             Evil Looking       

    rundown99's avatar - cigar

    United States
    Member #567
    August 14, 2002
    486 Posts
    Posted: March 2, 2005, 9:30 pm - IP Logged

    Smart Lottery winners form trust or foundation to claim winnings.....and tell NO one, especially relatives!!!!

    Smart lottery winners form trust to claim their winnings.  They send an attorney to the lottery headquarters to claim the prize in trust, so that ONLY the name of the trust is revealed.  And they tell NO ONE, especially relatives.

    If you ever win a lottery and you are single, the only person you should ever marry is someone who was truly in love with you BEFORE you won the jackpot!

      DoctorEw220's avatar - alien helmet.jpg
      Yinzer Country, PA
      United States
      Member #4067
      March 18, 2004
      2741 Posts
      Posted: March 5, 2005, 6:10 pm - IP Logged

      ok. does anyone else see something wrong with the fact that the guy fathered children of both his ex-wife AND her sister?

      I've redone my website.  Go to www.dr-ew.com.  I kept a lot of the old stuff, and I've added some new stuff.  Look for more new stuff in the coming weeks.

        Maverick's avatar - yinyang
        United States
        Member #8242
        October 29, 2004
        1133 Posts
        Posted: March 5, 2005, 7:25 pm - IP Logged

        ... new reality show >> Lottery Jackpot Soap Operas

          GoArmy's avatar - redcross
          Waukegan, IL
          United States
          Member #8043
          October 22, 2004
          753 Posts
          Posted: March 5, 2005, 7:59 pm - IP Logged

          ok. does anyone else see something wrong with the fact that the guy fathered children of both his ex-wife AND her sister?

          I hear ya. We all thought that the Clampett's were bad, jeez!

            United States
            Member #379
            June 5, 2002
            11296 Posts
            Posted: March 6, 2005, 2:03 pm - IP Logged

            Funny things happen when millions of dollars are involved.

              1977's avatar - flower2
              st. pete
              United States
              Member #6680
              September 3, 2004
              1233 Posts
              Posted: March 8, 2005, 6:44 pm - IP Logged
              Quote: Originally posted by DoctorEw220 on March 5, 2005

              ok. does anyone else see something wrong with the fact that the guy fathered children of both his ex-wife AND her sister?

              looks like he has enough $$$$$$  to travel ---yes SANFORD, FLA is a small town --but really there lots of other people in ORLANDO---the next town over!!!!
                dvdiva's avatar - 8ball

                United States
                Member #2338
                September 17, 2003
                2063 Posts
                Posted: March 8, 2005, 9:01 pm - IP Logged

                Judging from the story funny things were happening way before he won the money. So would that be half-sibling niece or what. Ahh the joys of keeping it in the family.

                  Littleoldlady's avatar - basket
                  United States
                  Member #487
                  July 15, 2002
                  17638 Posts
                  Posted: March 22, 2005, 11:48 am - IP Logged

                  He played so he should pay..

                  If you know your number is going to hit, have patience and then KILL IT!

                  You never know when you will get another hit.

                    SirMetro's avatar - center
                    East of Atlanta
                    United States
                    Member #6191
                    August 11, 2004
                    1389 Posts
                    Posted: March 22, 2005, 12:01 pm - IP Logged

                    Just curious...but if I read the story correctly, he had an affair with both sisters while he was married to a third woman??? Maybe it's just me, but seems like the whole crew is a bit off their rocker. Unfortunantely, it will forever be the children who shall suffer the most. It is the children I pity, as for the adults, they are getting nothing less then what they have created for themselves. A slew of mindgames and headaches.

                    Sir Metro

                    The face in the looking glass will forever be there to judge you.

                      Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
                      Chief Bottle Washer
                      New Jersey
                      United States
                      Member #1
                      May 31, 2000
                      23716 Posts
                      Posted: March 22, 2005, 12:11 pm - IP Logged

                      I had to read the story five or six times myself.


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