Before You Buy a Powerball Ticket, Remember the Woes of the Dominican Man Who Won $338M in 2013

Lead Photo: AP Photo/Julio Cortez
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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Right now, everyone’s trying to get at that Powerball jackpot. Currently at $1.5 billion – a take home value of $930 million –this is the biggest jackpot in Powerball history, according to the New York Times. There’s only 1 in 292 million chance of winning the grand prize, but it’s not stopping people (us included) from rushing out before 11:59 ET to buy tickets in one of the 42 states where it’s played.

But although winning a buttload of money is the stuff of most people’s dreams, it’s worth remembering that it can also come with plenty of complications. The tales of winners are often filled with tragedy, and for Pedro Quezada, from Passaic, New Jersey, winning $338 million – the fourth largest jackpot in 2013 – led to lawsuits, strained friendships, supplicants, and urban legends. Quezada, a bodega owner who lived in the Dominican Republic until he was 19, was obviously thrilled when he learned he’d won.

“[When I found out I had the winning ticket] I felt pure joy and happiness because I can help my family,” he said in March 2013 when he claimed his prize, according to Fox News Latino.

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But a year later, he and Inez Sanchez, his girlfriend of 10 years, had broken up and she was suing him for her half of the money. The two lived together and even have a child together. Sanchez’s lawyers argued that because he bought the ticket with their shared income (they owned the bodega together), she was entitled to half. Quezada’s lawyers eventually successfully argued that because they never married, she wasn’t entitled to the money.

After he agreed to pay the legal fees that Sanchez had racked up, she backed off (they later reconciled.)

But then, Quezada fell out with his neighbors, many of whom believed he was going to pay their rent after news outlets erroneously reported this rumor as fact. “He promised the whole street, but he never followed through,” neighbor Sreafim Ariza told the Daily Mail. In that same article, Quezada’s landlord complained that he didn’t pay $7,250 of his own rent. “It doesn’t get any lower than that,” the landlord told the newspaper. “He didn’t pay his own. Forget the rest of them.”

People who frequented the bodega he owned also tried to stop by to ask him for favors – some traveling from as far as Colombia to ask for money.

Quezado’s son closes up the bodega. AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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Quezada’s attorney, Paul Fernandez, said that Quezada bought a $340,000 house in Clifton and that he also paid for two of Sanchez’s children’s college tuition. By the end of 2013, Sanchez’s attorney said that most of the money had already been spent. $57 million was sent to the DR, $5 million was given away, $300,000 was spent on Quezada’s house, and the remaining $20 million “can’t be located.”

Fernandez disputed this, though he did cop to Quezada’s struggles.“He went from having all of this family and no money to having all of this money and no family,” he told The Record newspaper.

And ultimately, the lawsuits, damaged relationships, and financial hardships Quezada faced pale in comparison to some of the tragic horror stories that have befallen past lottery winners. In Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions, author Edward Ugel details thousands of grim stories from lottery winners, many of whom wound up murdered or broke within seven years of winning.

“You would be blown away to see how many winners wish they’d never won,” Ugel told the NY Daily News.

So before you stand in line for that Powerball ticket, maybe think twice.