How One Lottery Winner Blew Through $10 Million in Less Than 10 Years

A porttrait of Sharon Tirabassi, who won more than $10 million in the lottery in 2004. She now rides the Barton Street bus to work, a part-time job to support her kids in a rented house in northeast Hamilton.

With a $338 million Powerball ticket having been sold in New Jersey -- the fourth-largest jackpot in Powerball history -- it's a good time to remember that the sudden gains of a lottery windfall can be fleeting.

Imagine, for instance, winning $10 million and having almost none of it left less than a decade later.

It happened to Sharon Tirabassi, a 35 year-old resident of Hamilton, Ontario. Nine years ago, The Hamilton Spectator reports, Tirabassi cashed a check from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. for $10,569,00.10 (Canadian). Today, after spending almost all her winnings -- "big house, fancy cars, designer clothes, lavish parties exotic trips, handouts to family, loans to friends" -- she's back in the working class: riding the bus, working part-time, living in a rented house.

What remains of her windfall is in trust for her six children; the money will become available when they turn 26.

"The moment I got it, I divided it among my family," Tirabassi told The Spec: $1 million to her parents, and $1.75 million among her four siblings. She was generous with others, too, buying houses and renting them out at low rates, paying people's rent, offering loans for bail and business ventures.

"All of that other stuff was fun in the beginning, now it's like ... back to life."

That other stuff included vacations in Cancun, Florida, Las Vegas, California, and the Caribbean, as well as four cars: a Hummer, a Mustang, a Dodge Charger and a custom Cadillac Escalade.



Tirabassi was a single mother, recently off welfare and newly employed as a personal care provider, when she struck it rich on Easter Weekend in 2004. As a teenager, she had lived in shelters, and all that money didn't come with instructions. Tirabassi didn't hire a financial adviser; she didn't even keep close track of her account balance. Suddenly, with just $750,000 left, Tirabassi woke up: "that was just time for fun to stop and to just go back to life."

Tirabassi's husband, Vinny, who brought three kids of his own to the marriage, shares her stoicism about the couple's lost fortune. He says he lived simply his whole life and is used to not being rich. Recalling the post-winning entreaties of suddenly interested friends, some of whom came asking for favors and then disappeared, Vinny says, "Money doesn't buy you happiness. It caused her a lot of headaches." His wife had a hard time saying no to those she thought of as in need: "That's the way I was brought up," she says. "Help those who can't help themselves."

For the complete story of the couple's financial descent, head over to The Spec.com, and check out the paper's 2007 interview with Tirabassi, when she had already spent half of her winnings.

Tirabassi's experience stands in contrast to that of Sandra Hayes, who pocketed around $6 million when she and a dozen coworkers split a $224 million Powerball jackpot in 2006. (Watch Hayes tell her story in the video below.)

Like Tirabassi, Hayes went on a spending spree -- including a boat, an Escalade and a Mercedes -- but she also paid off her mortgage and student loans, and was leery about handouts to friends and relatives. Today, Hayes lives comfortably but not extravagantly.

"I love a good deal, I'm on a budget, I save my money," she says. "I try not to live above my means." Her warning to the newly rich: "If you're not disciplined, you'll go broke. I don't care how much money you have."

Hayes sounds as though she might have taken lessons from Six Tips on How to Avoid Squandering a Financial Windfall. For more advice, check out these Powerball winners' lessons on how to hang on to your cash, whether you're a millionaire or just trying to make ends meet.

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Larry Smith

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March 19 2014 at 6:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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March 18 2014 at 2:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bradley Speck

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March 07 2014 at 11:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marjan Viki

I want to use this oppotunity to thank Dr Trust for helping me to will the lottery.I have been playing the lottery for the past 2 years now and the only big money i have ever won was 1000$.Ever since then i have not been able to win again and i was so upset and i need help to win the lottery so i decided to go online and search for help,there i saw so many good talk about this man called Dr Trust of how he have cast spell for people to win the lottery.I contact him also and tell him i want to win a lottery he cast a spell for me which i use and i play and won 50million GBP.I am so greatful to this man just incase you also need him to help you win,you can contact him through his email: Ultimatespellcast@gmail.com Call +2348156885231

February 11 2014 at 3:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ralph Chastain

Bunch of scamming losers in the comments section.

January 11 2014 at 1:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jonny Blake

Here is my testimony my name is David Alfred am from United State, i have been playing lottery for three years and i have not been winning, the last time i won big was 5000usd and that was a year ago but last week a friend of my introduced me to a spell caster from Africa and i was told that he can help me through the use of traditional voodoo i did not believe it and i said let me just give it a try to know how real it is. My friend and i went, so the spell caster told me to get the ticket and play the lottery and i won $18millionUSD now my name is all over the globe in the Virgina lottery win there is nothing i can do much than to thank Dr Kabiru because him alone i believe can make you win. I promise that i will make people know about him and that is what i am doing online now contact him today and be happy at fruthfullspelltemple@outlook.com

January 10 2014 at 3:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mschleo Holtz

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January 01 2014 at 6:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Santo Westley

An amazing testimony on a spell caster who brought my wife back to me.. My name is santo smith i live in uk,and I`m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she did not love me anymore So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.{okutemple@hotmail.com}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day what an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who did not call me for the past seven {5}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster . So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {okutemple@hotmail.com},if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to "bringing your ex back. So thanks to the babatemple for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again.okutemple@hotmail.com
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January 01 2014 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Santo Westley

I have always wanted to be able to not live paycheck to paycheck or have any debt. I worked in accounting for about 20 years and was barely able to make ends meet. It seemed like any time I moved up in the company and received a raise, my living expenses would go up significantly and I was never able to get ahead. lottery spells. Then one day my best friend told me the truth about what he did when his wife left him. He had a love spell cast and she stopped the divorce proceedings and they got back together. When he told me this I asked who he used and he gave me their email address which is:okutemple@hotmail.com and I immediately contacted them for help. I saw that they offered different kinds of money spells to help win the lottery. I was immediately intrigued. I have always felt like I was going to win the lottery someday. I had the jackpot lottery spell cast and awaited my win. I was told to play the lottery each week and I did what I was told. I played the lottery each week anyways, so it did not change anything. Within about two weeks it happened. I won $100,000!! I could not believe it! It was not enough money to retire right away, but I invested it well and it has allowed me to go down to part time work and will help me retire much earlier. I am eternally grateful for finding their email address:okutemple@hotmail.com

January 01 2014 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Amanda William

i will never stop sharing this testimony because i contacted for marriage restoration and my husband came back to me we celebrated Christmas together. After more than three years of separation and nearing the final stage of divorce, Dr UZA restored my marriage. I had no idea that Dr UZA had moved the other woman out of my husband's life and was working on his heart in such a mighty way. He is worthy to be praised. Listen fellow standers, I got weary on the last stretch of my stand and was ready to move on but Dr UZA spell intervened. Dear standers, please don't give up, even when it seems hopeless because my situation appeared that way just try and contact Dr UZA because it will not take more than 48hours to restored your marriage. Just remember that Dr UZA is faithful. He is not a man that He should lie and He honors marriage. Never fail in bringing Dr uza Word to His remembrance and claiming his spell for your marriage and family. I did and now my husband and I are moving on in our marriage by the grace of God. I’m praying for you all, so be encouraged because Dr UZA will keep His promise for his spell work email via: uzaspellhome@yahoo.com for the restoration of your home.

December 26 2013 at 3:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply