What would you do if you won $188M? That’s what Marie Holmes found herself asking when she realized she had one of three jackpot-winning Powerball Lotto tickets. She was one of three prize winners to stake a claim to share a staggering $564.1M jackpot.
Marie only plays the Lotto occasionally and decided to go out on a whim since the jackpot was so big. Marie’s Mom was going to the local convenience store, the Scotchman, so Marie gave her $15 to buy five quick picks.
What Marie didn’t know was the dreams her Mom had that led to her picking the winning numbers.
The first of many twists is that Marie’s Mom Fontella picked the numbers and sacrificed the winnings. That said, it was still Marie’s money that bought the tickets.
Speaking with Iyanla Vanzant, Fontello revealed that she’d been having dreams about her late son she’d sadly lost. Marie's brother was the third child, and on his birthday he'd have been 25 years old. Those were the numbers that Marie’s Mom put on the Lotto instead of using the quick picks Marie asked for.
Rumors circulated from extended family members that the golden ticket was, in fact, her 90-year-old Grandma’s and Marie had taken it and signed her name to it. Not many people sign their lottery tickets, but it is recommended as it proves it’s legally yours.
That’s one of the things that rose suspicion on Marie’s winning ticket. That was the first of a few social media outbursts to gain virality online putting the lucky Lotto winner in the headlines. Others included Marie’s boyfriend Lamarr paying for sex with Marie’s money and Marie herself knowing about her live-in boyfriend’s misdeeds with mistresses and bribing them to leave her man alone.
After the massive windfall, Marie’s claim to fame was one that kept every mismanaged move she made in the spotlight of news outlets and social media.
Plenty of people had harsh words to say.
Marie’s boyfriend is the father of her youngest child. At the time she won, family and friends said she had little to no contact with any of children’s fathers. She was a single working Mom of four kids who gave up working minimum wage jobs at Walmart and McDonald’s to care for her kids full-time. Her eldest son aged 7 has Cerebral Palsy, which no doubt the Lotto winnings would help pay for the medical costs, which would otherwise leave her struggling financially.
News soon hit the social stratosphere that Marie was indeed in a serious relationship with Lamarr McDow. In a town with a small population of around 4,000 people, when $3M is paid in bail money to get someone out of prison, people notice.
Just a few weeks after scooping the massive win, Marie decided to pay $3M to get Lamarr out of jail on bail. He was awaiting trial for Federal drug-trafficking offenses.
Just a few months after his release on bail, which required GPS monitoring, Lamarr had broken his pretrial bail conditions. At the time he was living with Marie at her trailer home, but when officers arrived, they were greeted with the strong scent of marijuana. This was cause for a warrant, Marie’s home to be searched, and that led to her own arrest for simple possession of marijuana, along with three others in the property at the time of the raid. Not because she was using, but it the illegal drugs were found on her property. Not only was Lamarr arrested, but he was sent back to jail, this time for having handled Marie’s registered firearm, which is a felony for a criminal.
His bail was doubled to six million and Marie again put that money up. Now she was shackled with a criminal record for drug possession and had now $9M of her winnings at risk by putting it up as bail money.
Lamarr was arrested again for breaching his pre-trial conditions by allegedly conspiring to arrange a street race of two Corvettes on Boxing day of 2016. As bail money doubles each time it’s violated, this time his bail was set at $12M.
Marie struck media headlines again when she put that money up, bringing her grand total to $21M paid in bail money to keep her boyfriend out of jail.
Money can’t buy freedom though, especially for drug-dealers. Lamarr is now serving a seven-year Federal sentence for trafficking heroin.
If losing $1.47M at least in bail fees wasn’t enough, Marie had another problem surfacing from none other than her own local pastor.
It’s hard to believe a preacher forgot what he preaches from Corinthians 1:6, which states that disputes should not be judged by non-believers. In other words, thou shalt not sue your parishioners.
Astonishingly that’s exactly what pastor Kevin Matthews did…
Following Marie’s huge cash windfall, Pastor Kevin Matthews says he was led to Marie by God. You can see him praying outside her home in the picture below.
The pastor attended Marie’s home on a few occasions, praying with and offering guidance, mentorship, and support as he had always done. Her family had attended the Pleasant Hill Missionary Church for five generations. The pastor was more a Fatherly figure in Marie’s life than a friend. He knew of her problems, the troubled life of Lamarr, had prayed with them both and tried to help Lamarr clean his life up.
On the few trips he had to the family home, he’d provide prayer and had met with a few other family members at Marie’s new home. After several visits, Kevin revealed to Marie that he’d been praying for years to acquire land beside the parish church to build a retreat center.
He’d asked if she’d consider donating towards the project. His estimated costs were either $1M, $1.5M or $2M. He didn’t know. Marie agreed to donate $1.5M in total towards the retreat. Since it was a casual conversation, no details were specified, just the figure mentioned.
The pastor took from that a promise he’d receive the money. He went ahead and met with several Realtors in the area and made verbal agreements with them to purchase land. He’d even went to the extreme of promising to pay $200,000 out to other people and ministries over a two-year period.
However, Marie did a sensible thing at this stage and recognised this transaction as a charitable donation. Despite having already donated $680,000 to the local parish church, any further contributions would be separated from her own wealth. Instead, it fell to the management of her charitable trust, the Marie Holmes Foundation, managed by her Aunt Carmel Wheaton, the charities Executive Director to manage the $9.7M Marie had put into the charity to give back to the local community.
Alongside Carmel Wheaton, Accountancy, Dexter Perry were involved and legal counsel from Ruth Sheenan of the Francis Law practice, it was ultimately decided that the charities money would have better purposes spent elsewhere. Building a retreat for the local parish church was no longer on the table. But, because the Pastor had made verbal agreements, he claims the decision to not follow through on the donation promised led him to experience increased anxiety, causing him to take more medication. For this, he feels justified in suing for $10M. The $1.5M plus damages for emotional distress.
The only plus side to come out of this, is it put Marie back in public favor as it switched the naysayers’ attention to the church leader.
It wasn’t until around a year later, after Marie was consistently being hounded on social media and some mainstream news sites, life coach Iyanla Vanzant was approached by the family to help Marie see where she was going wrong.
Her spending was going to lead her right back into poverty if she didn’t get things in check. She’d lost $1.47M at least to bail fees, bought Lamarr a business to run, which had her name on it so when he’s in prison, she’s that business to run, staff to pay, overheads to meet etc. Her aunt had $9.7M to manage in the charitable trust she’d set up, the Marie Holmes Foundation, and she’d bought a few properties, expensive cars, some quads, go-karts, dirt bikes etc for her kids.
Living a small town of Shallotte, NC, Marie knew the money issues posed a threat to her and her family. But, she decided that instead of moving, she’d buy her Mom a house in Seattle and send her kids to live with her Mom, while she stayed in Shallotte with her boyfriend Lamarr.
As Iyanla discovered, it was more than the money. It was family pathology more than it was the mentality.
Marie’s Dad spent time in and out jail for the same thing as Lamarr. Her father was a drug user, and what seemed to be driving Marie’s irrational spending decisions was trying to fix with Lamarr what she couldn’t do for her Dad.
Poverty was all she knew, but deep down, all she wanted was to keep a father figure around for her kids. Even it cost millions to keep Lamarr around for less than a year.
Iyanla worked with both Lamarr and Marie to help them develop a plan that would see them maintain their wealth for the future generation of the family. All we can hope is that the lessons sink in, Lamarr learns to get on the straight and narrow and both of them do get the wedding they are planning when Lamarr has served his time.
During the research phase of Iyanla’s Fix My Life episode, she’d spoken to experienced financial advisors to find out more about lottery winners.
As it turns out…
1. 45% of lottery winners will be bankrupt in less than 8 years. 2. 73% of lottery winners were forced separate themselves from their families for at least three years after winning. Because everyone wants a slice. 3. 87% of lottery winners waste or give away 25% to 40% of all winnings within 9-months of claiming.
Why Keep Hush when You Come into Money
Money will change people’s attitudes. Even so-called men-of-God are still human, and humans have a tendency to get greedy. There’s supposed to be an attitude of gratitude, but take the experience of Marie and her local pastor as a prime example of what’s expected. When someone without riches suddenly finds herself with a high bank balance, everyone, preachers and pastors included, want a slice of that windfall.
Marie learned this the hard way. Pastor Kevin Matthews needs to take a flip through his bible again and take a look at Corinthians 1:6, where it’s stated in the book the pastor preaches from that if you have an issue with a believer, it’s not for the courts of non-believers to judge. Saints judge, not the courts.
When you buy a lottery ticket, sign it. If you do hit it big, keep it to yourself until you have financial guidance and legal protection. And if you are speaking about money, make sure it’s clear you aren’t making a verbal agreement as that’s grounds to be sued if you don’t follow through on a promise.
That’s life, even with all the money you need to provide for generations. Money doesn’t buy happiness. It only intensifies existing problems.