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Lottery winner facing tax fraud trial dies

Apr 25, 2008, 7:11 pm

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After the Big Win

Editor's Note: A less in-depth news story about this lottery winner was posted earlier today: $13 million Florida Lotto winner dies a pauper

Former lottery multi-millionaire Alex Toth, who was broke and facing tax fraud charges, has died at the age of 60.

Toth was scheduled to go on trial in June, accused of filing fake tax returns with his wife, Rhoda, who has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

By the time the couple were charged in 2006, authorities said they appeared to have no assets. The $13 million lottery money won 18 years ago was long gone, and the Hudson couple were living in squalid conditions, their only electricity coming through an extension cord rigged to their car engine.

The Toths said they lost the money through gambling, gifts and living the high life. The money created rifts in their family, leading to a lawsuit between Rhoda Toth and her son in 1996.

Toth's attorney, Bjorn Brunvand, said his client died in early April. Pasco County Health Department spokeswoman Deanna Krautner confirmed Alex Joseph Toth died April 5. The cause of death was not released.

Brunvand said the trial would have been "interesting," and that he planned to blame Rhoda Toth, who Brunvand said manipulated her husband into signing paperwork.

"I don't think Alex Toth, during the time period in question, was capable of knowingly and willingly participating in the scheme," Brunvand said. "Whatever his wife would tell him to do, he would do."

According to Rhoda Toth's plea agreement filed in federal court, the Toths won the lottery to be paid out over 20 years. When the payments were being made, their taxes were withheld. In 1999, they sold the annuity to Singer Asset and Finance for two lump sums, $1.59 million to Alex Toth and $1.49 million to Rhoda Toth.

That year, they filed tax returns reporting their income as if they had received the same annuity payment they had received before. They failed to report the lump sum payments from selling the annuity, the plea agreement states.

In subsequent years, the agreement states, the Toths falsely reported gambling losses to offset the payments they were no longer receiving.

In total, the agreement states, Rhoda Toth owes the government $1.1 million and her husband owed $1.4 million

Brunvand said the Toths split up last year when Alex Toth went to a federal medical facility to be treated for mental problems that rendered him incompetent to stand trial. Although Rhoda Toth accompanied her husband to court for a hearing in August about his competency, when he returned from treatment that restored his competence, Rhoda Toth had "moved on to someone else," Brunvand said.

Last year, Brunvand filed with the court a letter from physician Gary Levine, who said Alex Toth had been involved in "multiple motor vehicle accidents," the most recent one on June 4.

Toth had "chronic pain syndrome," the physician wrote, as well as Type II diabetes; a poorly controlled, penicillin-resistant staph infection; and a history of severe esophagitis, gastritis and degenerative joint and disc disease.

"He also has chronic anxiety and panic attacks," Levine wrote, and was taking multiple medications.

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