TWO decades ago, a 35-year-old security guard’s life changed forever when he won a multimillion-dollar lottery jackpot.
But within a decade, that man became a bankrupt drug addict who would soon turn to a life of crime to fuel his addiction.
It was back in January 1998 when Californian James Allen Hayes took out the top million prize in the SuperLotto jackpot.
After paying taxes, Hayes was left with .7 million, which was paid out in 20 annual instalments of ,000.
But soon, his incredible windfall turned sour.
Instead of being sensible with his cash, Hayes splashed it around, snapping up “Lamborghinis, Porsches and Harleys, million-dollar oceanfront condos (and) extravagant gambling trips to Vegas,” according to a detailed investigation published by the Daily Beast recently.
But his extravagance was only part of the problem.
In the late ’90s, Hayes’ ex-wife was awarded half his annual winnings.
He also developed a crippling addiction to prescription painkillers thanks to a back injury.
In 2007, he finally filed for bankruptcy after “debts from living large and making bad business moves began to pile up,” Daily Beast reported.
And soon, the California Lottery started withholding some of his lottery payments due to his mounting debt.
An increasingly desperate Hayes moved into a “modest” block of flats with second wife Stephanie Wysinger-Hayes, where he lived rent-free in exchange for managing the site.
But when a mentally ill tenant set fire to the complex in January 2017, Hayes lost all his remaining belongings as well as his home.
He applied for 38 jobs but was turned down for each one, and eventually moved into a friend’s garage.
Then, he turned to heroin — and came up with a secret plan to start robbing banks to feed his new habit.
“I mentally snapped,” he told reporter Natalie O’Neill.
“I was broke, dope-sick, pissed off at the world, living in a garage with my beloved cat looking up at me hungry.
“I would never steal from a working guy. I would never steal an old lady’s purse … But I truly thought robbing a bank was a victimless crime, that it’s not the teller’s money, it’s the bank’s — and I hate banks.”
He got away with the first robbery, then the second and then the third, and soon perfected his technique.
He pulled off each one by slipping the bank clerk a note demanding cash — although he never once used a gun.
And he also learned to disguise his appearance, carry out the crimes at times when he knew police officers were changing shifts and complete the thefts in under three minutes.
But his string of heists unravelled when he was arrested in October last year, after robbing 10 banks and pocketing ,000 — around ,000.
When the cops found him, Mr Hayes was “a penniless junkie living in a garage” — a far cry from the days he would think nothing of dropping thousands on Rolexes, motorbikes and Persian rugs or adding to his luxury car collection on a whim.
After pleading guilty to four federal counts of bank robbery, he was sentenced to 33 months behind bars as well as three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay ,424 (,500) in restitution.
He will be released in 2020, and is already working on a memoir, titled Lottery To Robbery.
“Having money enabled me to live my wildest dreams,” he told the Daily Beast.
“But there’s a flip side. It’s the lottery curse.”
After eight months in prison, Mr Hayes is now drug-free and is hopeful he can finally turn his life around.
“Prison is the most horrible thing ever but I’m thankful it happened. It saved my life,” he said.
“Money doesn’t equal happiness — it can really screw up your life.”