Dave and Erica Harig stayed true to their values when they won a lottery jackpot of over $61 million in 2013. It made all the difference.
The couple from Gretna, Nebraska, a community on the outskirts of Omaha where Dave Harig is now a volunteer firefighter, allowed themselves to buy a new house, a few vintage cars and a few ocean cruises after they both quit their jobs.
But nine years later, they’re still living as they always have, staying in their community, keeping up with their church, family and friends, and teaching their children to work hard for a living, despite any financial losses that may come. to come to them.
Many other winners were not so lucky, suffering personal setbacks and lawsuits or becoming victims of fraud. The latest big jackpot winner came Friday, when a single ticket sold in Illinois matched the numbers for a $1.337 billion Mega Millions prize. Illinois is among the states where winners of more than $250,000 can choose not to have their names revealed.
Dave Harig, an Air Force veteran who worked in aircraft maintenance, says that simply keeping things going probably saved him and his family from the hassles and tragedies that have befallen other big winners.
Almost overnight, the Harig family’s mailbox was filled with letters full of stories of hard luck: sick children, lost jobs, burned down houses.
Dave Harrig said they ignored them all and focused on their own family and charities.
They didn’t even touch the principal on their profits until a few years ago, when they used it to fund a new firefighting museum in Gretna that is opening soon.
“We have nicer things, a bigger house and more than we ever had before. But we’re the same, and my wife and I keep each other in check,” said Dave Harig, encouraging future lottery winners to invest wisely, choose a national investment advisor, not a local one, and avoid advisors who are trying to sell finance. products.
They have ignored false rumors circulating about them, suggesting that his wife at one point ran off with a doctor and that he had a lawyer girlfriend. Their four children endured teasing at school.
“We’re still learning, but it’s helped us continue to work together as a team,” he said of himself and his wife.
He acknowledged the struggles of some past winners, saying the experience of winning a jackpot “can really highlight your character and any addictions”.
The late Andrew Whittaker Jr., of West Virginia, suffered lawsuits and personal setbacks after winning a record $315 million Powerball jackpot on Christmas night in 2002.
At the time, it was the largest US lottery jackpot won with a single ticket. People harassed him so much with requests for money that he stated several times that he wished he had torn up the ticket.
Before he died of natural causes in 2020 at the age of 72, he struggled with alcohol and gambling problems and had a series of personal tragedies, including the death of his granddaughter.
Winning the lottery brought a different kind of headache to Manuel Franco, of West Allis, Wisconsin, who claimed a $768 million jackpot in April 2019.
Then, just 24, Franco excitedly held a press conference to discuss his victory, but later reportedly went into hiding amid harassment from strangers and the media.
The Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin began warning people in 2021 about messages from scammers claiming to be the multi-million dollar winner.
Using Franco’s name, the scammers sent text messages, social media messages, phone calls and emails asking for personal information, telling recipients they had been selected to receive money.
The BBB said the scammers took more than $13,000 from people they scammed, including people in Alabama and Colorado.
Despite the problems the winners have faced, lottery officials favor public recognition of winners to instill public confidence in the games.
This is largely because some past plans have been set up. The former director of information security for the Multistate Lottery Association, Eddie Tipton, pleaded guilty in 2017 to manipulating software so that it could predict winning numbers on certain days of the year. He and his brother hit jackpots in several states for a combined payout of about $24 million.
AP reporter Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report.