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Review: Vultures feast on desperate lottery winners

Sep 24, 2007, 11:05 am

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After the Big Win

Money for Nothing is a glimpse into a seedy business few will ever encounter.

Edward Ugel writes about the trade of preying on bottomed-out lottery winners, crazy for cash to meet their growing debts, waiting for their next annual annuity check to arrive from the state coffers.

His tale is a colorfully written account by a self-proclaimed overweight, chain-smoking, Krispy Kreme doughnut-eating, fanatical gambler.

For just shy of a decade starting in the late 1990s, Ugel says he worked in an industry that sold money to lottery winners. In exchange, winners signed over a portion of their long-term annuities. The cash Ugel doled out to down-on-their-luck winners was far less than the face value of the annuities. And Ugel says, at one point, he made lots of dough in commissions by providing this service.

You will lick your chops, eager to hear the sordid woes of winners gone broke from spending sprees. There are sad tales here, all right, but it has all been fictionalized. In the introduction, Ugel states he has "a legal obligation to keep certain details of my employment confidential. Among other things, I have changed every name, win amount, and win state, as well as certain descriptions of lottery winners with whom I've worked in order to protect their identity."

Forty-two states plus Washington, D.C., have lotteries. Today, most lotteries now offer winners the choice of taking their prize in a lump sum to invest themselves or as a traditional long-term annuity. Not surprisingly, the vast majority take the lump sum. For future winners, this is a worthy cautionary tale.

Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions by Edward Ugel; Collins, 256 pages, $24.95.

Money for Nothing: One Man's Journey
Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions
by
Edward Ugel; Collins, 256 pages, $24.95.

Discounted at Amazon.com. $24.95 $16.47 You Save: $8.48 (34%) Eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25.

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