Marie Holmes Won $188 Million on the Powerball Lottery—And It Ruined Her Life

Buying a lottery ticket is easy, but as Marie Holmes found out after winning the Powerball jackpot, navigating life afterward can be fraught with difficulty. Finance experts recommend getting help from a lawyer, accountant, and a financial advisor to manage how you spend, save, and invest your winnings. Unfortunately, Holmes did not take this advice—and her resulting experiences with excessive spending, legal trouble, and being the victim of attempted extortion serve as a cautionary tale to all lottery winners. Here, we lay out Marie Holmes’ story and the very real lessons they can offer to the rest of us.


188 Million Powerball Winner Marie HolmesMarie Holmes, a young single mother to four kids, won a third ($188 million) of the North Carolina Powerball’s $564 million jackpot in 2015. She was living in poverty and working multiple jobs at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart to support her family. There was no doubt that winning the jackpot and becoming North Carolina's largest jackpot winner ever was going to change her life dramatically, but unfortunately it was not entirely for the better.

Once the shock of winning wore off, Holmes talked to a lawyer and chose to take the $127 million lump sum payment rather than the 30-year annuity payout. After taxes, she was left with $87.9 million. Holmes began spending money immediately to help out her family and her church, and in 2016, she used $9.7 million to establish a charity foundation.

Since Holmes didn't opt to stay anonymous like fellow Powerball winner Bill Lawrence did, it didn't take long for people to begin taking advantage of her generosity. By the time she realized what was happening, she had already spent millions of dollars, was being sued by her pastor for millions more, and had a strained relationship with her family.

Holmes’ financial and legal troubles made the news—and just one year after winning the lottery, she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s self-help intervention show Iyanla: Fix My Life.


In the years since Holmes collected her winnings, there have been several claims that the money wasn’t really hers.

During her appearance on the television show Iyanla: Fix My Life, it was revealed that Marie Holmes’ mother, Fontella, had chosen the winning numbers when she bought the ticket on her daughter’s behalf, using Marie’s money. When the ticket was a winner, Fontella decided that she would let her daughter believe the numbers had been random. Fontella knew Marie needed the money to give her children a better life, and she wanted her to have it.

Since the win, it was reported that several of Holmes’ cousins claimed that the ticket belonged to their 90-year-old grandmother and not to Holmes herself.

Despite this confusion over the true winner, the lottery ticket had Marie Holmes’ signature on it. In the eyes of the law, this confirmed that she was the rightful winner—and this is exactly why signing your tickets immediately after you buy them is one of the wisest things you can do.


Marie Holmes Plantation HomeA New House

The first purchase Holmes made was a new home for her family. She traded up from her trailer to a multi-million-dollar mansion on a former slave owner’s plantation—not the most practical purchase.

Financial planning experts recommend waiting six months after winning the lottery before making a major life change or large purchase, such as a new house or car. During Holmes’ televised intervention with Iyanla Vanzant, the relationship and self-help guru pointed out that the sprawling mansion was not a well-planned purchase and that the house had a very negative energy for Holmes and her family.

Bailing Her Boyfriend Out of Jail

Marie Holmes Boyfriend Lamarr McDowHolmes made international headlines for spending $21 million in one year to repeatedly bail her drug-dealing boyfriend, Lamarr McDow, out of jail. In March of 2015, Holmes paid $3 million to get McDow out of prison, where he was serving time since 2014 for heroin trafficking.

In July 2015, he was summoned to court after a raid and she paid $6 million in bail to get him out. When he was taken in again on an old charge, Holmes put up another $10,000 to release him. Finally, in December 2015, a warrant was issued for McDow’s arrest for trying to arrange a street race, and Holmes paid another $12 million to bail him out.

Currently, McDow is serving 90 to 120 months in jail for conspiracy to distribute heroin, reports The Inquisitr. Whether or not he will reunite after his release is anyone’s guess, but considering she spent more than $21 million on bailing him out, we certainly hope so!

Marie Holmes Pastor Kevin MatthewsDonations to Her Church

As soon as she won the lottery, Holmes told her pastor that she would donate 10% of her winnings to the church. The promised sum added up to a very generous $1.5 million. Holmes had been a member of the church her entire life, and the pastor, Kevin Matthews, had been a kind and supportive confidante during difficult times.

In a shocking turn, after she gave $700,000 to the church, Matthews decided to sue for the rest of the money that Holmes had verbally promised. He also sued her for the anxiety and depression he developed while waiting for the rest of the money. The total lawsuit against Holmes was for a whopping $10 million! You know the world has serious problems when a pastor sues a lottery winner...

Legal Fees

Holmes has spent a pile of money on legal fees fighting Matthews in court. She also dealt with being charged for possession of a small amount of marijuana and a civil lawsuit from a cousin who claimed that Holmes had threatened her physically.


Today, Holmes is the CEO of her charity, the Marie Holmes Foundation. To date, her charity has provided funding grants for creative businesses, scholarships, and toys for children during the holidays. She has also run multiple back-to-school drives, giving away hundreds of backpacks and school supplies to her community’s neediest children.


Marie Holmes’ story proves that winning a large sum of money can’t guarantee happiness on its own. Without proper financial planning and legal assistance, it’s easy to make rash decisions and to be taken advantage of by others. When it comes to the lottery, it’s always wise to play responsibly, understand how to use a lottery trust to stay anonymous, and to have a solid plan for your money. Otherwise, you might end up like Marie Holmes or, even worse, like one of the many lottery winners who went bankrupt.

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