When he pocketed nearly 13 million euros thanks to the lottery at the age of 19, Michael Carroll lotto was working as a part-time garbage collector in the county of Norfolk, in the region of East Anglia. Eight years later he was bankrupt after making the front pages of the British tabloids for his excesses. For this British “chav” or polygonist to have become a millionaire overnight was a real ruin. We tell you his story.
Winning the lottery: a dream for many people
On that November day in 2002, the lottery ticket that Michael Carroll, a garbage collector born in the small town of Swaffham in the eastern county of Norfolk, was carrying was literally a blessing.
As the six numbers of the National Lottery draw came up, one after the other lit up good old Carroll’s face. He was the only winner that afternoon, which brought him nearly 13 million euros in one fell swoop. For a guy born into the bosom of the depressed British working class, i.e. a chav or poligonero as lower-class youngsters without resources, a bit lost and poorly educated are called around these parts, this was a dream come true. But what to do with so much money? The blessing soon turned into quite the opposite.
The Wanderings of a Wandering Billionaire
Michael Carroll lottery responds perfectly to the cliché of the chav so well portrayed by columnist Owen Jones in his book Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class. These lower-class young people, usually unemployed or on very low wages, constitute a subculture that has often been ridiculed by the media. Although with few resources, they tend to display an opulent style with well-defined tastes, associated with an interest in appearing and climbing the social ladder as quickly as possible. Following this trend, Michael Carroll soon earned the nickname of the lottery lout.
The story goes that he arrived to cash in his winning ticket wearing an electronic surveillance device. He had been convicted of robbery and in Hollesley Bay Prison in Suffolk he learned to read and write. He didn’t even have a bank account into which to deposit the millions he had won and, although he had been recommended by the national lottery itself, the reputable Coutts & Company, a private bank specializing in overseeing millionaire fortunes, refused his application because of his criminal record.
The desires of this young man with no future soon came true. He bought a mansion in the village to which he added a swimming pool and a Jacuzzi, a 12,000 m2 plot of land that he transformed into a racetrack and his lifestyle began to be filled with luxuries, excesses… and bad company too. When one ascends to the sky so fast, the fall is usually very painful afterwards.
After six months his wife and young daughter left him, and his eccentricities increased, making him easy prey for the tabloids. In this regard, Michael Carroll has on more than one occasion blamed the press for having constructed an image of him as a hooligan and a brawler. Although his behavior was certainly erratic, typical of someone who does not know what to do with so much money.
The city council even opened a hotline where neighbors could report Carroll’s brawls, of which there were many. In 2005 he was arrested for anti-social behavior after being found drunk throwing metal balls from his Mercedes, resulting in the smashing of 32 car windows and shop windows. Public brawls were also the order of the day. Some years later he confessed that he spent about 2,000 pounds a day on crack, the most addictive form of cocaine, just over 2,200 euros.
Despite the generosity he showed to his family: he left his mother, aunt and sister £1 million each, he squandered his fortune on parties, drugs, sex and cars. Blackmail and threats were not slow in coming. She reported in 2004 that she had been robbed of £100,000 worth of jewelry, almost 112,000 euros at the exchange rate, which she hastened to replace the next day. In another incident, 5 of the Rottweilers he had guarding his mansion turned up with their throats slit. Michael Carroll stated that he had to pay almost 150,000 euros to blackmailers to protect his family who had been threatened. You’re not so big now, are you, Mr. Carroll, the extortionists reportedly told him while pointing guns at him. When he was arrested in 2006 and sent to jail for 9 months for being involved in a public brawl, the court noted his 42 registered offenses.
By 2010 he wanted to return to his old job as a garbage collector having squandered his entire fortune. He showed no signs of regret, though. Losing the millions he had earned was the best thing that ever happened to him. “It will ground me back to reality after the roller coaster ride I’ve been on for the last eight years,” he said in an interview with the BBC.
All that glitters is not gold
Michael Carroll’s life shows that hitting the jackpot can become a curse if you haven’t learned how to manage such sums of money. While many of us dream of winning the lottery someday, and the expression te ha tocado el gordo has become entrenched among us to signify any stroke of luck, fortune can be a very bad companion. In addition to wanting to consume as quickly as possible all that we aspire: houses, cars, luxury vacations, among other things, there are many false friends who are waiting to rob you as soon as possible.
After moving to Scotland to be closer to his daughter, Michael Carroll himself recommended to a couple who had won the lottery to disappear as soon as possible. You know, all that glitters is not all that glitters.