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Richard Roeper: Be glad you didn’t win the Mega Millions jackpot

Red Bud Illinois MoMart store manager Denise Metzger looks an oversized check given her by lottery officials Saturday morning March

Red Bud, Illinois Moto Mart store manager Denise Metzger looks at an oversized check given to her by lottery officials Saturday morning March 31, 2012. They visited the convenience store in this town of about 3,700 residents to verify that her store had indeed sold one of the three winning Mega Millions lottery tickets. | AP

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Updated: May 4, 2012 8:07AM



When you tell people you’re sick, you get one of two reactions:

A. “What’s wrong? Can I do anything? Hope you feel better soon.

Or: B. “You’re sick, and you came to work? Get away from me. I don’t want to get sick.”

There’s a ittle bit of a character test there.

The same goes for how people respond when you come into good financial fortune.

A. “Good for you! That’s awesome. If anyone deserves it, you do.”

B. “Must be nice. Hey, can I talk to you for a second? If I can just borrow some money, I can get out of debt...”

Last week, half the nation was indulging in giddy fantasies about what they would do if they won the record-setting $656 million jackpot in the Mega Millions drawing. Lots of talk about helping out the family and setting up a charity foundation and quitting the job and living the dream.

Not so much talk about lawyering up and preparing for an onslaught of requests for grants, loans, gifts, partnerships and investment opportunities. Not so much about the rifts with coworkers or friends claiming they should be sharing in the jackpot because you always bought tickets together. Not so much about the inevitable moment when a relative stops speaking to you because you won’t give him any more money.

As of Monday morning, lottery officials are saying none of the three winners has come forward — but we already have our first brewing controversy with the New York Post report about a 37-year-old woman from Maryland who first said she’d won and now is saying she’s not sure — but if she does indeed have a winning ticket, it’s not from the group plan she had with her fellow McDonald’s employees.

Here we go.

Lotto headache

From the Post:

“Mega Millions mania has plunged a Maryland McDonald’s into a bubbling cauldron of controversy hotter than a deep-fried apple pie.

“Workers at the fast-food joint who pooled their cash for tickets are furious at a colleague who claims she won with a ticket she bought for herself and has no intention of sharing.”

According to the story, Mirland Wilson was in charge of buying the tickets for a pool of McDonald’s employees. But Wilson’s claiming the winning ticket was purchased separately.

Good luck with that. If Wilson does have the winning ticket, unless she handed the stack of pool tickets to someone else in the group, took photos of the separate stacks or otherwise took steps BEFORE the drawing to differentiate between the two, I don’t how she wins her claim.

And even if it turns out Wilson didn’t win, when we talk about odds, here’s one probability for you: At least one of the three big winners will either be sued by co-workers saying they deserve a share or will be telling us 10 years from now they wish they’d never won.

That’s what Alex Snelius told us last week. In September 2000, the semi-retired truck mechanic from the south suburbs beat 175 million-to-1 odds and won a $64 million jackpot, taking home $18.5 million.

Snelius built million-dollar homes for his grown children, started giving away money to charity (“For every home run, Alex Snelius makes a $100 donation to White Sox charities in loving memory of his wife Ursula”), made loans to friends.

Fast forward to last week. The homes are gone. There are myriad family troubles. Snelius isn’t broke, but he estimates if he ever got all the money back that he’s loaned out, it would be as much as $8 million. The day before we spoke, he’d lent $120,000 to an associate, knowing he’d never see it again. You ask if he wish he’d never won, and the answer is a resounding yes.

I know. It’d be different if you or I won. We’d surround ourselves with the best lawyers, we’d set up a charitable foundation run by the best people, we’d share our good fortune with family and friends. We’d avoid the pitfalls that trouble so many other mega-winners.

Who no doubt said the same thing when they were fantasizing about hitting the ultimate jackpot.



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