Marie Holmes was 26 years old and working five jobs to support her children when she won the $188 million Powerball jackpot in 2015 — the largest jackpot winnings in North Carolina history at the time.
She had big plans for the money, which totaled $87.9 million after taxes, according to the N.C. Education Lottery. Holmes told lottery officials she planned to give some of the prize money to charities and religious organizations, as well as put it toward finishing her college degree and buying her mother a house.
But according to her ex-fiance Lamarr Andre McDow, the winnings also went to generous gifts for him that she allegedly gave away or sold after they split up.
Now he’s suing to get them back.
McDow, 36, accused Holmes of breaching her fiduciary duty when she reportedly gave away his 77-acre dirt bike track, his car repair shop and tens of thousands of dollars worth of clothing and jewelry while he was in prison, according to a lawsuit which moved to federal court earlier this month.
Attorneys representing McDow and Holmes did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment. But Holmes said in court filings the gifts were never in McDow’s name and legally belonged to her.
“This case is the embodiment of the phrase ‘[w]hat’s yours is mine and what’s mine is my own.’ The problem here, however, is that McDow has nothing of his own,” Holmes’ defense attorneys said in a motion to dismiss the case. “Instead, McDow is Holmes’ disgruntled, currently imprisoned former fiancé with multiple criminal convictions and an unfortunate desire to pursue meritless litigation against Holmes, whose generosity after winning the Powerball lottery is at the heart of this litigation.”
Spending her winnings
According to the complaint, McDow and Holmes started dating in 2012 and had two daughters together. McDow was arrested in November 2014 and charged with drug trafficking.
Two months later, Holmes won the lottery.
McDow was convicted in April 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He remains incarcerated with a projected release date of June 2, 2023, Department of Public Safety records show.
Holmes is from Shallotte, a small town on the coast of North Carolina less than 15 miles from the South Carolina border. According to the Education Lottery, she was working at Walmart, Food Lion, KFC, McDonald’s and Subway when she won the Powerball jackpot on Feb. 11, 2015.
Her odds of winning were 1 in 175 million.
“I started screaming and jumping around,” Holmes told lottery officials at the time. “I said to my kids, ‘You just don’t understand what this means.’”
In the months that followed, Holmes reportedly bought multiple houses — including a plantation in Brunswick County — and designer cars.
Before McDow reported to prison, the complaint said Holmes bought him a $250,000 Chevy Stingray, two dump trucks totaling $125,000, $100,000 worth of clothes and jewelry, a $600,000 automotive shop and 77 acres in Ashe County for a dirt bike track costing $80,000, among other gifts.
McDow made Holmes — then his fiancee — his power of attorney.
Holmes appeared on a reality TV show on the Oprah Winfrey Network called Iyanla: Fix My Life, in which inspirational speaker and author Iyanla Vanzant tried to help Holmes overcome challenges from the “financial windfall” of winning the lottery.
The episode, which aired in October 2016, was titled “Lotto Drama.” McDow also appeared in the episode, which his attorney cites in the lawsuit.
An acrimonious split
Holmes had their second daughter while McDow was in prison, but the two reportedly split up in August 2017. Eventually McDow heard through a friend that Holmes was dating someone new and had given away his clothing and the dirt bike track, in addition to shutting down the car repair shop, the complaint said.
“Ms. Holmes’ unconditional obligation to act in the best interests of Mr. McDow didn’t stop because Ms. Holmes and Mr. McDow’s relationship ended,” his attorney said in court filings, citing her power-of-attorney status.
The lawsuit makes claims for breach of fiduciary duty, conversion and breach of bailment. McDow is seeking a jury trial and more than $25,000 in damages.
But in a motion to dismiss filed Thursday, attorneys for Holmes said there numerous deficiencies in his complaint.
They said Holmes — who has lived in Washington state for “several years” — was never properly served with the lawsuit, which was given to a third party in Shallotte “who does not live with Holmes and who has no authority to accept service of process on Holmes’ behalf,” the motion to dismiss says.
Defense attorneys also said the lawsuit was filed outside the three-year statute of limitations, which expired last year, and that McDow never legally owned the property in question, worth more than $1.4 million.
McDow has not responded to the motion to dismiss, court filings show.