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Mental Patient Blows Lottery $$

A Florida man found mentally incapable of caring for himself spent most of the $400,000 he won on a lottery scratch-off ticket and now may lose the government benefits he needs. 

For more than a decade, a court-appointed guardian has overseen the care of 55-year-old Malcolm Ramsey, who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, according to the Tampa Bay Times (paywall alert). Supplemental Security Income paid for his room and board at a St. Petersburg assisted living facility and provided a $54 monthly allowance.

The allowance is how Ramsey bought the winning “$500-a-week-for-life” Florida Lottery ticket in October. The Times reported that a cab driver helped Ramsey get a government identification card, a copy of his birth certificate and drove him to Tallahassee, where lottery officials handed over the prize: $403,288.

Ramsey took his winnings, $302,446 after taxes, and cashed it all at a local Amscot store. The fees to get the cash and money orders: more than $14,000, the Times said. He spent more than half the money in four weeks, on shoes, cell phones and other items. Relatives who had not paid much attention to him started visiting regularly.

A Pinellas County judge wonders how state officials handed over money to someone deemed unable to handle his personal finances, and has asked a court investigator to find what money remains. Police also are pursuing possible exploitation charges.

The winnings, meanwhile, could mean Ramsey will lose his Medicaid eligibility. The law states you can only have a certain amount of money in the bank and still receive the $1,000 a month that covers his room and board, the Times said.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.