ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Authorities in Florida say they're investigating whether a man considered legally incapable of caring for himself was duped out of $170,000 in lottery winnings.
Malcolm Ramsey, 55, who lives at the Loving Care Assisted Living Facility in St. Petersburg, won $500 a week for life with a Florida Lottery scratch-off ticket last October. But he took a $403,000 lump-sum award -- $302,446 after taxes -- and within a month more than half of it was already gone, the Tampa Bay Times reported Sunday.
Ramsey's legal guardian, St. Petersburg police, adult protective services and a judge all became involved in trying to figure out how Ramsey, who was declared not competent to take care of himself, went through so much money in such a short time.
The Times says not only has Ramsey blown through a large chunk of his cash he's now in danger of losing the government benefits he has relied on.
Judge Lauren Laughlin, who monitors Ramsey's guardianship, questions how lottery officials turned over such a large sum of money to someone diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and declared legally incapable of caring for himself, the Times said.
"You clearly can't be giving this kind of money to people who have had the right to manage their own financial affairs removed," she said. "You would like it to be a Forrest Gump time, good for you, but not with $170,000 walking out the door in 30 days."
The Times says the money trail shows Ramsey got involved with local taxi driver Charlie Springer, who he met at the Quick Pick where he bought his winning ticket. Springer called the lottery headquarters to learn what Ramsey needed to do to claim his winnings, helped him open a checking account and charged him $1,500 for a round-trip cab ride to Tallahassee to pick up his money.
While the Quick Pick manager counseled him to be careful with his newfound wealth, Ramsey got a cashier's check for the full amount and cashed it at an Amscot store at a cost of more than $14,000 in fees, authorities said. He took $19,678 in cash and the rest in 268 $1,000 money orders.
The Times says an investigator found Ramsey went on a shopping spree, cashing 21 of the money orders on Nov. 6 alone. On Black Friday, Nov. 29, he spent $8,000. Products purchased included television sets at Walmart.
Ramsey went to several malls and shopping outlets with Springer or one of his sisters, buying gifts for members of his family, many of whom staff members at Loving Care hadn't seen before, the report said.
"It was people who were around that had never been around before," said Lona DiCerb, director of operations at Aging Solutions, the non-profit group then in charge of Ramsey's care. "That's troublesome when family he'd never spoke of prior began coming around."
Once the judge and other authorities got involved, they began the task of trying to determine where all of Ramsey's money had gone. While relatives acknowledged receiving new phones, car repairs, cash and meals, Laughlin said "that wouldn't account for the amount of money that is missing."