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Janite Lee Gave Thousands to Charity; Filed for Bankruptcy

Even though Janite Lee gave thousands to charity, the lotto gods did not smile on her. She eventually declared bankruptcy after too much spending.

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Lottery winner Janite Lee seemed to have the right idea. In 1993, after buying a lottery ticket worth $18 million, the 52-year-old South Korean immigrant gave much of the spoils to charity. Although Lee did move into a million-dollar house in St. Louis, the city where she'd previously operated a wig shop, she focused on helping others.

With $620,000 a year winnings, Lee's charitable efforts included sizable donations to Washington University School of Law. She also donated hundreds of thousands to presidential political campaigns, which earned her tableside seating with Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Unfortunately, while she was giving away her lottery earnings, Lee was protecting a financial secret.

Remember that million-dollar house? Instead of buying it with her lottery windfall, Lee purchased it on payments. In addition to this mortgage, she leased luxury cars and reportedly borrowed millions more from banks and credit cards. Even when she tried to make financially savvy moves, such as paying off a loan ahead of schedule, she ended up deeper in debt by owing $750,000 in early payoff penalties.

By 2001, Lee had sold the rights to future lottery payments and filed for bankruptcy. She was $2.5 million in debt [source: Carbone, Danvers].

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