Lottery winner watched his luck end right there

MIKE ROYKO

July 12, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

The biggest lottery in U.S. history has been won -- $110 million. If the winner is smart, he will immediately seek expert financial counseling.

And I have just the guy for this job. He is Buddy Post of Oil City, Pa.

Post, 54, is not an estate planner, a stockbroker or a tax lawyer. In fact, he is a high school dropout, a former carnival worker, and sort of a career loser.

He's been married six times, has 10 children, 32 grandchildren, a tattoo on his arm and a police record for bouncing checks. Once in a while, he will go on a beer binge.

But he knows about lotteries. In 1988, Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery. After taxes, that's about half-a-million a year for 20 years.

However, he has managed to goof up his affairs so thoroughly that he now says he is broke and wishes he was back operating a carnival Ferris wheel for $150 a week.

His story is so bizarre that it would probably make a movie plot, although I'm not sure if it would be a comedy or tragedy. Maybe both.

How he managed to wind up broke is kind of fuzzy. But it seems to have happened this way.

When he won the lottery, one of the first things he and his sixth wife did was go to a bank, get a mortgage, and buy a mansion in Oil City. A very nice house with turrets, a swimming pool, lots of bedrooms.

Then he went into business with some of his brothers and a sister. A used-car lot in Florida flopped. "I dumped about $250,000 into that.

"Then I spent a lot of money on a disco and bar; this was for my other brother and sister. My brother started living like a millionaire, and it went bankrupt.

"I bought my brother and sister a house in Florida. I bought my brother an airplane -- he's a pilot. I gave him money for it. Then I found out instead he bought himself a 32-foot boat. You'd think you could trust your own family."

Wait, it gets worse. His former landlady sued him. She said she had put up some of the money for the lottery tickets and wanted her share.

A judge agreed and awarded her about a third of the winnings. Post hired a lawyer to appeal. So while the case drags through the courts, all of the lottery checks are being put in escrow. So Post has no income.

Which is why his mansion is now a mess. He's stripped it of most of the furniture, the alarm system and anything else he could sell just to pay his electric and phone bills. His swimming pool is filled with sand and the grounds are covered with weeds.

"If I was gonna give somebody advice, I'd tell 'em, be careful of your family. Greed is a seed that grows.

"My brother and my sister, they were pilfering from my house, stealing furniture and fixtures. They forged checks on me. People are always trying to get money from you.

"My life used to be so simple. I didn't have a fancy Cadillac. But I bought one. Then I had to sell it because I needed the money.

"My phone is always ringing. Every day is a mind-picking day. If I'm not dealing with an ex-wife, it's something else. I'm in Superior Court or Federal Court and I get headaches so bad I take Demerol."

One of Buddy's brothers lives in Sarasota, Fla. A few days ago, the brother, age 50, was arrested for trying to hire somebody to murder Buddy and Buddy's wife.

The police say the brother wanted it to look like a murder-suicide. His motive, they say, was to collect some of the future lottery payments when the legal squabbles made them available.

"I'm cutting him out of my will," says Buddy. "And my other brother and sister, too."

Can you blame him?

"Why did I give my money to my relatives? My wife and I have had a lot of arguments about that. She left me six or seven times because of it. She knew what was going on, but I didn't."

But there is a bright side.

Some day the checks will again start rolling in.

And Buddy is now getting a measure of fame. After his brother was arrested for allegedly trying to have him bumped off, the story of Buddy and his financial problems came out. And now TV crews are trooping to his once-fine mansion.

"Haven't had a movie offer yet," he says. "But I'm expecting one.

"Or maybe I'll go join a circus again. That's what my life has been like anyway."

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