- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2004

Trouble seems to follow the luckiest man in America.

Since winning the largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history — $314.9 million — on Christmas Day 2002, Jack Whittaker has been robbed and sued. His West Virginia residence and vehicles have been burgled. A dead teenager was found in his house.

This week Mr. Whittaker’s misadventures continued with his arrest on charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol and carrying a concealed handgun without a license.

Mr. Whittaker, 57, racked up his third DUI charge Tuesday night after his Hummer struck a concrete median on the West Virginia Turnpike near Beckley, about 80 miles from his home in Scott Depot, W.Va.

The multimillionaire also had a small pistol stuffed in his left boot and $117,000 in cash on him.

Mr. Whittaker, already a wealthy businessman when he opted for the $170 million lump-sum cash payment from the Powerball lottery, easily paid $1,700 bail to get out of jail Wednesday morning.

His fortune, however, has done little to end a two-year streak of bad luck.

In addition to the drunken-driving arrests, he has been charged with threatening to kill a bartender, sued for groping waitresses at a dog-racing track, and repeatedly robbed and burglarized.

Some of Mr. Whittaker’s neighbors in rural West Virginia say he is more a victim of his notoriety than a hillbilly millionaire run amok.

“Whenever I have dealt with Mr. Whittaker, he has been a fine man,” said Sgt. Lisa Arthur of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department. “He is very kind. He is very generous. Perhaps, since he has had so much press coverage since he won the money, people have made him a target.”

Mr. Whittaker could not be reached for comment. A phone call to his attorney was not returned.

Everything started out well enough after Mr. Whittaker hit the jackpot on Christmas 2002. He donated millions to churches and charities.

His luck began to turn in August 2003, when he was drugged and robbed while watching a show at the Pink Pony strip club in Cross Lanes, W.Va., not far from his home.

Police said the club’s 23-year-old manager and a 24-year-old ex-stripper drugged Mr. Whittaker’s Hawaiian Punch. When the freewheeling millionaire nodded off, the duo broke into his Lincoln Navigator and stole a briefcase filled with $545,000 in cash and cashier’s checks that Mr. Whittaker liked to keep on hand.

Mr. Whittaker woke up and called the police, and the robbery plot quickly unraveled. Police found the loot hidden in a garbage can outside the club.

In January, he picked up his second DUI citation. He also was charged with assaulting and threatening to kill the manager of a Putnam County bar, from which he previously had been banned.

Two months later, Mr. Whittaker was slapped with a lawsuit by three waitresses at Tri-State Race Track and Gaming Center in Cross Lanes accusing him of making inappropriate sexual advances, such as pinching them and pushing their faces into his lap.

Two other lawsuits came from two men who claimed they were injured when Mr. Whittaker had bouncers toss them out of a nightclub in Charleston, W.Va. The club also was named as a defendant.

The multiple burglaries included $100,000 stolen from his Lincoln Navigator and $2,000 from his business.

In September, three burglars broke into Mr. Whittaker’s home and found the body of Jesse Joe Tribble, 18. One thief, who knew the dead teenager, tipped off police about the corpse.

Authorities soon had all the suspected burglars behind bars and recovered $15,000 worth of goods stolen from the Whittaker home.

Mr. Whittaker had been out of town at the time, and police did not suspect foul play in the death. Police said Mr. Tribble, a friend of Mr. Whittaker’s granddaughter Brandi, likely died of a drug overdose.

Still, the headlines only seemed to confirm Mr. Whittaker’s Powerball jinx. Even his generosity backfired.

After the win, Mr. Whittaker bought a $123,000 house in the upscale Moss Creek subdivision for the convenience store clerk who sold him the winning ticket. But neighbors were up in arms when she moved in with her boyfriend — a convicted sex offender and child molester.

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