Woman wins lottery, buys house, HELOCs $2M+, and spends it all

I have profiled many stories of the capricious nature of the housing bubble and how it impacted people for better and for worse. The daily HELOC abuse posts have covered the odious behavior of borrowers from all walks of life. Usually I relegate those stories to the bottom of the daily posts because they are so common they no longer rise to the definition of “news.” However, when I discovered today’s featured property I was astounded at the scale of the HELOC abuse. When I did a search on the name of the owner I came across an interesting back-story of divorce, deceit, and elder abuse. The story is so compelling, I decided to make it the focus of today’s post.

Lottery Winner Sues Son for $12.6 Million : Courts: Woman, in her 60s, alleges he and his wife coerced her into signing over the prize money.


SANTA ANA — An Orange County woman who won $12.6 million in the California Lottery last year is suing her son and daughter-in-law in an effort to regain the money, which she claims they coerced her into signing over to them.

Joan F. Markham, 66, a British citizen who was living in Buena Park when she won the prize last summer, alleges that the couple, who are now divorcing, threatened to have her deported or sent to jail unless she gave them the money. They also threatened to keep her away from her grandchildren, whom she baby-sat regularly, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Orange County Superior Court.

This divorcing couple allegedly harassed an old lady into giving them her lottery winnings by threatening to prevent her from seeing her grandchildren. Real nice.

“She’s just really upset about all of this,” Markham’s attorney, Milford W. Dahl Jr., said Tuesday. “I think she wants to have control of the money so she can make sure her grandchildren get it rather than have her son and daughter-in-law spend it on themselves.”

She was right to be concerned. As we will see when we examine the amazing HELOC abuse on her property, the daughter-in-law has a sense of entitlement that is big even by Orange County standards.

There are two sides to every story, and the events as described by the attorney for Ms. Markham may not be accurate.

Dispute Over Lottery Winnings Heard in Court : Lawsuit: Woman contends that the action involving her estranged husband and mother-in-law is a scheme to keep her from getting her share of $12.6 million.


… An attorney for the 41-year-old Nicole Markham, relating her side of the story for the first time, said the lawsuit is really a scheme by her estranged husband to cheat her out of her share of the winnings.

“I firmly believe that this is just another step in Brian’s scheme to exclude his wife, Nicole, from community property proceeds,” attorney George C. Rudolph said.

“Brian went out and bought a lottery ticket. He doesn’t know what to do when he wins because he doesn’t want to share the proceeds with his wife. So, he held the ticket for three weeks until his mother came back from England and concocted a scheme where Joan went to the lottery office and claimed to be the winner,” Rudolph said.

That sounds very plausible. Who would want to give millions of dollars to someone they’re divorcing? Unfortunately, whether the guys wants to turn over the money or not, they were still married when he won, and the soon-to-be-X-wife still gets half.

The elder Markham, who is a British citizen, contends in a lawsuit filed Monday that the couple coerced her into signing over her 1994 lottery winnings last fall by threatening to keep her from seeing her grandchildren and threatening to have her deported. She is suing to have all the winnings returned to her.

In her lawsuit, Joan Markham, who lives in South County on a long-term visa, claims that she gave her son money to buy lottery tickets for her while she was on vacation in her native Great Britain.

Sounds a bit too convenient, doesn’t it?

Her attorney, Milford W. Dahl, said Monday that Brian Markham held onto the ticket for three weeks until his mother returned to claim the prize, which amounts to $631,000 a year for 20 years, or $454,320 annually after taxes.

Dahl said that after a “campaign of harassment and intimidation” by her son and daughter-in-law to get the money, Joan Markham signed her winnings over to her son in order to preserve her health and her relationship with her grandchildren. The attorney said his client is diabetic and had to be hospitalized after a confrontation with her daughter-in-law last September.

If true, the perpetrator is a real piece of work.

Rudolph said the elder Markham’s version of events is simply not true.

“Then only thing that we can do is sit back and wonder why we are here a year after this alleged incident has occurred,” he said.

The timing does look rather suspicious, and although I couldn’t find a follow-up story, it appears the former daughter-in-law and ex-wife won and got to keep her half of the winnings.

… On Wednesday, Fell scheduled a preliminary hearing for Aug. 11. She ordered that a lottery disbursement of more than $454,000, scheduled to be paid to the estranged couple this week be given to their respective attorneys until the matter is resolved.

Rudolph argued against any delays, saying his client needs her share of the money to live on. He said she spent most of her first payment to buy a new home in Coto de Caza. He said Nicole Markham did not ask for financial support in the divorce and does not have a job. …

Does not have a job? And she is buying a Coto de Caza mansion? How did she plan to make those payments?

Well, she must have won the case, but even then, the $315,500 yearly split of the lottery winnings were not enough to satisfy her sense of entitlement, so she turned to her HELOC.