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British Lotto winner's legal problems grow

Feb 19, 2004, 7:30 am

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UK National Lottery

Michael Carroll picked up his $18 million lottery check wearing a court-issued electronic tracing tag.

And the longtime petty criminal's worries have only gotten worse since he became a rich man.

Carroll -- dubbed the "Lotto Lout" in the British press -- recently pleaded guilty to drug possession. He also is accused of receiving $2,000 worth of stolen power tools. Those are just the latest entries on Carroll's long rap sheet, which includes brushes with the law both before and after his big win.

The not-so-lucky big-money winner's travails have gotten heavy media coverage, from the $2,500 fine he paid for ducking $9.50 train fares before he came into his fortune, to the $1,500 he handed over to a transport company whose school bus he had defaced.

His lawyer, Neil Meachem, told a judge after Carroll's most-recent guilty plea that he had been having marital troubles -- news reports say his wife left him -- and that his 2002 winnings were partly to blame for his many troubles.

"However much money one has or acquires ... it doesn't necessarily buy you happiness, and he has had a number of problems," Meachem said, acknowledging that his client had possessed a small amount of cocaine and $2,900 worth of marijuana.

"There have been difficulties because he has received threats of a particular kind," the lawyer said. "In some quarters his good fortune had not made him popular. To that extent he concedes he has sought solace in drugs."

Noting his extensive criminal record, the judge said she would seriously consider giving him jail time when she pronounces a sentence next month.

Meachem declined to comment further or to explain who was threatening the 20-year-old Carroll. He said his client, who lives in Norfolk, in eastern England, also did not want to speak.

The National Lottery emphasized that Carroll's situation was unusual, saying that 98 percent of the 1,600 millionaires and multimillionaires it has created since its inception a decade ago report being as happy or happier than they were before their wins.

Carroll's troubles began long before his victory.

When he collected his prize, he said he'd been in court "countless" times and was living on unemployment benefits after losing his job at a chocolate factory. He had also served two months in a young-offenders institution for "joyriding," taking and then abandoning a car.

He promised then to mend his ways and said he never planned to work again.

"I have to say I was completely speechless and was so happy I couldn't help but cry," he told reporters at the time, describing his feelings when he learned he'd hit the jackpot.

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