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Friday, December 3, 2004

A Man with Too Much Money: Jack Whittaker

Jack Whittaker; his wife, Jewell, right; and their granddaughter Brandi BraggJack Whittaker; his wife, Jewell, right; and their granddaughter Brandi Bragg, are shown in December 2002, days after Whittaker won a nearly $315 million jackpot. Over the next five years, his wife left him and his granddaughter died of drug overdose.

Jack Whittaker Jack Whittaker
Jack Whittaker

Jack Whittaker won the Christmas night 2002 Powerball lottery and $113 million in cash ($314.9 million lottery prize). Since then his life has been like a slow-motion train wreck. Here's a brief rundown of his "rap" sheet and his tragic loss:

Recent news:

Update September 14, 2007:
AP / MSNBC:
Powerball curse? Record jackpot winner reflects -- In his darkest moments, Jack Whittaker has sometimes wondered if winning the nearly $315 million Powerball game was really worth it...

USA Today:
Unlucky winner in his own words -- Jack Whittaker should be living a fantasy after winning a nearly $315 million jackpot in 2002. But his life since then has been a downward spiral, punctuated by well-publicized indiscretions such as philandering and drunken driving.

Whittaker sat down with The Associated Press recently to discuss his gambling, his troubles and his personal losses. [...]

AP/Washington Post:
Powerball Win: Fantasy or Nightmare? -- "I don't have any friends," he said in lengthy interview with The Associated Press. "Every friend that I've had, practically, has wanted to borrow money or something and of course, once they borrow money from you, you can't be friends anymore." [...]

In all, Whittaker says, he's been involved in 460 legal actions since winning. He recently settled a lawsuit that alleged his bank failed to catch $50,000 in counterfeit checks cashed from his accounts.

Whittaker believes he has been unfairly demonized by the media, which he says exaggerated his problems and helped drive his wife away. [...]

Update Jan 13, 2006:
NY POST headline:
$315M MAN: I CAN'T AFFORD IT - A man who won a $315 million lottery jackpot says he can't pay a settlement to a casino worker he allegedly assaulted because thieves cleaned out his bank accounts. Powerball winner Jack Whittaker, who in 2002 collected a lump sum of $113 million after taxes, said "a team of crooks" cashed checks in September at 12 City National Bank branches and "got all my money," according to the motion filed by the casino worker's lawyer in state court.

"I intend to pay but can't without any money," Whittaker wrote, according to the motion. An official with City National Bank said yesterday the bank is investigating "small discrepancies" in Whittaker's accounts.
-------
Timeline of the Jack Whittaker saga:

December 25, 2002, Andrew Jackson "Jack" Whittaker, Jr. wins the $314.9 million Power Ball drawing. Whittaker took the cash payment option.

• The West Virginia Gazette reported yesterday (Dec. 2, 2004):
Powerball multimillionaire Jack Whittaker faces arrest today after a Kanawha County magistrate revoked his bond.

Whittaker, 57, of Scott Depot has been free on a $150 bond since his January drunken driving arrest on Interstate 64 in Nitro. Kanawha County Magistrate Tim Halloran voided the bond today because State Police in Beckley charged Whittaker with DUI on Tuesday (Nov. 30, 2004).
• CNN reported on Wednesday (Dec. 1, 2004):
Jack Whittaker, 57, was arrested Tuesday night after his Hummer struck a concrete median on the West Virginia Turnpike near Beckley [Raleigh County, WV].

Senior Trooper M.J. Pinardo reported that he smelled alcohol, but Whittaker refused sobriety tests and was "extremely belligerent." Troopers also said they found a small pistol in Whittaker's boot and he was carrying $117,000 in cash.
• CBS reported in Sept. 2004:
Three men burglarized the home of Jack Whittaker, winner of the biggest lottery jackpot in U.S. history, as an acquaintance of Whittaker lay dead inside, police said Tuesday.
Jesse Joe Tribble, 18, died from drug-related causes and not from anything associated with the burglary. Tribble was an acquaintance of Whittaker’s granddaughter and was known to Whittaker, as well as all three of burglars.

J.C. Shaver, 20, James Travis Willis, 25, and Jeffrey Dustin Campbell, 20, were charged with larceny and other offenses after being captured on a security camera that Whittaker recently had installed.

• In May 2004, two men sued Whittaker, claiming they were injured when they were tossed out of a nightclub at his request.

• On March 9, 2004 Whittaker was sued by an employee of the Tri-State Racetrack & Gaming Center who alleged he assaulted her in March 2003. Charity D. Fortner, a floor attendant at the Nitro track, filed a lawsuit against Whittaker, alleging he forced her head toward his pants while he gambled at the track in March 2003.

• Fox News report from Jan. 7, 2004:
(Whittaker) was arraigned Tuesday by a Putnam County magistrate on charges of trying to hit and threatening to kill Todd Parsons, the manager of Billy Sundays Bar and Grill in St. Albans.

Police documents indicate Whittaker, who reportedly had been banned from the establishment, entered the bar Sunday and argued with Parsons.

He allegedly attempted to hit the bar's manager and threatened "to have the victim and his family killed," according to police reports.
• January 2004: in separate incidents, Whittaker was charged with drunken driving on Jan. 25, 2004 in Kanawha County, WV, and his vehicle was broken into and $100,000 was taken. Vernon Jackson Jr. of Scott Depot, West Virginia, was indicted on several charges including breaking and entering an automobile and grand larceny.

• CBS reported in Aug 2003:
A Powerball winner who has donated more than $3 million of his record winnings to churches was drinking at a strip club when $545,000 was stolen from his sport utility vehicle...

Whittaker called deputies at 5:20 a.m. and also called his private investigator, who found the stolen money behind the trash bin less than an hour later, police said.

Club employees declined to comment to The Associated Press. Kanawha County Chief Deputy Phil Morris said they told deputies Whittaker was allowed to stay at the club until after 5 a.m. because he had drunk too much alcohol. The club closes at 3 a.m.

Whittaker told deputies that he was drugged after his return to the Pink Pony, and he provided police with a urine sample for analysis, Morris said.

“There's no confusion on the fact that he didn't have all his faculties,” Morris said.
The strip club manager and his girlfriend were charged with drugging Whittaker and stealing the money. The money was recovered, and the case is pending in court.

sources:
'Lucky' Powerball Winner To Jail? [cbsnews.com, Dec. 3, 2004]
Record lottery winner arrested on DUI, weapons charges [cnn, Dec. 1, 2004]
Jackpot Winner's House Burglarized as Dead Man Lies Inside [FoxNews.com, Sept. 22, 2004]
More Hard Luck For Lottery Winner [cbsnews.com, Sept. 22, 2004]
Powerball winner Whittaker is robbed two more times, sued [USA Today, March 12, 2004]
Powerball winner is robbed again _ and again [sfgate.com, March 11, 2004]
Record Powerball Winner Sued for Sex-Related Assault [Lottery Post, March 11, 2004]
One wild ride for jackpot winner [USA Today, Feb. 12, 2004]
Powerball Winner Arrested on Assault Charges [foxnews.com, Jan. 7, 2004]
Lotto Winner Robbed At Strip Club [cbsnews.com, Aug. 5, 2003]
Yes, West Virginia, there is a Santa Claus [cnn, Dec. 27, 2002]

update Dec. 10, 2004: Jack Whittaker agreed to enter a substance abuse rehab program and surrender his driver's license in order to stay out of jail. So maybe Mr. Whittaker can right the ship. But today an AP news report came out saying that his 17-year-old granddaughter, Brandi Lasha Bragg, has been missing since Saturday, Dec. 4, 2004.

Record Powerball lottery winner ordered into substance abuse program [LotteryPost.com, Dec. 8, 2004]
Powerball winner Jack Whittaker's granddaughter missing [pittsburglive.com, Dec. 10, 2004]
Powerball winner Whittaker's granddaughter goes missing [USA Today, Dec. 10, 2004]
BRANDI BRAGG MISSING, SCOTT DEPOT,WV [angelsmissing.com]

update Dec. 13, 2004 : Record Powerball winner Jack Whittaker was ordered to start attending weekly Alcoholic Anonymous sessions Monday after pleading no contest to an assault charge. The misdemeanor charge stems from a January incident in which Whittaker assaulted and threatened the manager, Todd Parsons, 27 of Billy Sundays Bar and Grill in St. Albans, WV.

Lottery winner pleads no contest, ordered to attend A-A meetings [WQAD, Dec. 14, 2004]
Record Powerball winner gets probation on assault charge [pittsburglive.com]

Brandi L. Bragg Brandi Lasha Bragg
Pictures of Brandi Lasha Bragg

update Dec. 14, 2004 : Putnam County sheriff's Sgt. Lisa Arthur said the granddaughter is not considered a kidnapping victim.

Lottery Winner's Wife Regrets Ticket [ABC News, Dec. 14, 2004]
Tough Times For Powerball Winner [cbs.com, Dec. 14, 2004]

update Dec. 15, 2004 : Brandi Lasha Bragg's photo and description are posted on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Web site, which lists her as an endangered runaway.

Powerball winner's granddaughter missing [AP/Fox News, Dec. 9, 2004]
BRANDI LASHA BRAGG [MissingKids.com]

update Dec. 20, 2004 : The Charleston West Virginia Gazette is reporting this afternoon that Jack Whittaker's granddaughter, Brandi Lasha Bragg, was found dead in Putnam County, West Virginia. The body was found behind a junked van, wrapped in a sheet and plastic tarp.
Police found the body of Brandi Lasha Bragg outside of a house on Scary Creek Road in Scary Creek, an unincorporated area near St. Albans, said Sgt. Jay Powers of the State Police.

Investigators from the State Police and the Putnam County Sheriff's Department have been searching for Bragg since Whittaker reported her missing on Dec. 9. She has been missing since Dec. 4, according to her family.

Police went to 341 Scary Creek Road around 11 a.m. today because people interviewed by investigators mentioned the house, Powers said
Granddaughter of record lottery winner found dead [USA Today, Dec. 21, 2004]
Jack's grandaughter found dead [RV.net]
Mega-Jackpot Winner’s Granddaughter Dead at 17 [NACSonline.com, Dec. 22, 2004]

update Dec. 31, 2004:
Services for Bragg were held Christmas Eve at 2 pm at the Ronald Meadows Funeral Home in Hinton, West Virginia. A visitation was held Thursday (Dec. 23, 2004) at the funeral home from 6 pm to 9 pm.

Bragg was buried in a family cemetery in Summers County, West Virginia.

Her death remains under investigation. An autopsy performed on Brandi Bragg Tuesday (Dec. 28th) confirmed that there were no signs of harm to her body...

The Winfield detachment of the West Virginia State Police identified her body Monday which was found wrapped in a sheet and a plastic tarp behind a van at a residence in Putnam County.

Sgt. Jay Powers of the State Police says tattoos on Bragg's body helped determine her identification.

According to Putnam County records, the property and home (where Bragg's body was found) are owned by Steve Crosier. His son, Brandon, was Bragg's boyfriend. Mr. Crossier suggests that Brandi died of an accidental drug overdose, and that his son panicked and stashed her body. "All I know is she OD'd and Brandon freaked out" he says.
FUNERAL AND BURIAL FOR BRAGG [PutnamLive.com]
Overdose theory in death of lottery winner's girl [smh.com.au, Dec. 22, 2004]
Grandfather ($314.9 million PowerBall jackpot winner)blames girl's death on drugs [freerepublic.com, Dec. 23, 2004]
Lottery winner's granddaughter got lots of cash [enquirer.com, Dec. 25, 2004]

Update Feb. 1, 2005 -- AP reported on Jan. 13, 2005:
State Police launched an internal investigation to find out why a trooper failed to provide enough information for the state Division of Motor Vehicles to revoke the driver's license of record Powerball winner Jack Whittaker.

Whittaker, 57, became an instant celebrity on Christmas Day 2002 after winning a $314.9 million Powerball jackpot, the richest undivided lottery jackpot in U.S. history. He took his winnings in a lump sum of $113 million.

Since then, he has been arrested twice for drunken driving - on Jan. 25, 2004 in Kanawha County and on Nov. 30 in Raleigh County.

The DMV issued a final order Aug. 27 after an administrative law judge found the state failed to present enough evidence to prove Whittaker was intoxicated when found asleep inside his Cadillac on Interstate 64. A magistrate also has dismissed criminal charges in the case.

State Police Trooper Brian Morris, the arresting officer, failed to establish his credentials to administer field sobriety tests, despite testifying that Whittaker failed two such tests, the final order states.
West Virginia Police Probe Powerball Winner's DUI Case [AP/Officer.com, Jan. 13, 2005]
State Police probe Whittaker case (powerball winner) [freerepublic.com, Jan. 13, 2005]
Record lottery winner's wealth cost him dearly [LotteryPost.com, Jan. 31, 2005]

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