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I was given £7million lottery ticket as a tip before restaurant staff tried to claim my jackpot – it ruined my life

A WOMAN who was given a £7million lottery ticket says her life has been ruined ever since restaurant staff tried to claim her jackpot.

Tonda Dickerson has faced decades of lawsuits, a shooting and an attempted kidnapping by her ex-husband.

In March 1999, Tonda was handed the lucky ticket while waitressing at a Waffle House restaurant in Grand Bay, Alabama.

At the time, she was in her late 20s, divorced and desperate for change.

But when Tonda claimed the winnings for herself, her life began to unravel, according to the Daily Star.


Diner Edward Seward finished up his cheap meal that fateful day on March 7, 1999, and handed Tonda a lottery ticket for a draw in Florida as a tip.

For Seward, it was an easy way of leaving behind a few dollars but for Tonda, it was a life-changer.

On Sunday, March 13, the results were announced and the Alabama woman discovered she had won a whopping £7.3million ($10million) jackpot, which these days is around £11.94million ($16.4million), according to the Daily Star.

She opted to take £275k ($375k) over 30 years, quit Waffle House and began thinking about her next steps.

But Tonda's colleagues had a different idea.

They accused her of breaking a promise made to other waitresses to share any winnings from the lottery ticket handed over by Seward.

Less than a month after winning, Tonda faced an Alabama court after being sued for millions by four Waffle House waitresses.

It took the court just 45 minutes to rule against her, according to local news site

A couple at the restaurant testified that Tonda had told them about a deal she had brokered with other waitresses to share the jackpot.

Tonda rejected a court offer to keep $3million and instead began funnelling the cash into a family business she had just set up.

Lucky for her, in 2000, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the earlier decision on the grounds the Waffle House waitresses' deal was a form of illegal gambling.

But Seward, who handed her the ticket, re-emerged to argue that Tonda had promised to buy him a new truck if she won.

Like the other claims, her lawyers claimed it was nothing more than a throwaway comment.


But matters got worse.

Just days after Seward had his claim rejected, Tonda's ex-husband Stacy Martin kidnapped her and drove her to an isolated boat jetty in Jackson County, north Alabama.

Armed with a .22 calibre handgun, he refused to let Tonda answer her ringing home.

When he finally gave in, Tonda grabbed his gun and shot him through the chest.

Stacy was rushed to hospital and, strangely enough, no charges were pressed against anyone for the bizarre kidnapping and shooting incident, reported.

But Tonda still wasn't off the hook.

For 12 years after that, she was chased to pay $1m in "gift taxes", on top of hefty income taxed.

In 2012, a court ruled she had to pay taxes on her jackpot taking but instead of paying for the full amount, she was told to cough up a percentage of the "gift portion" sized at $1,119,347.90, Forbes reported.

Tonda was able to keep the bulk of her winnings, which she passed on to her family.

According to, Tonda is still working.

A glance at her social media profiles show she's now a poker dealer at the Golden Nugget casino in Biloxi, Mississippi.

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