Victoria Zell

Generations from now, when wise men convene to lecture about the perils of the gambling-obsessed culture in the early 21st century, the saga of Victoria Zell--almost certain to be known as the Parable of the Powerball--will be central to the conversation. Late in 2001, Zell was sufficiently charming or serendipitous to have her husband pledge half of his $10.9 million Powerball jackpot winnings to her, despite the fact that the two were estranged and initiating divorce proceedings. Flash forward to a Sunday afternoon last July. Having spent the day ingesting alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamines with her two companions, Zell walked out of a south Minneapolis convenience store, slid behind the wheel of her SUV, and announced to her fellow passengers that she was going to show them how to "drive crazy." Reaching speeds up to 71 miles per hour, she proceeded to blow through two stop signs, collide with a small pickup truck, spin and roll the SUV onto the driver's side, and crash roof-first into a tree. Although the driver of the truck she hit was relatively unscathed, one of Zell's companions was killed and the other permanently disabled. Zell herself escaped (literally, through the SUV's open sunroof) with bumps, bruises, and a broken shoulder. Using some of her Powerball dough to post $200,000 bail, she subquently violated the terms of her release by ditching the alcohol-monitoring bracelet she had been required to wear, traveling to Duluth, and stashing .7 grams of methamphetamine in her purse. Investigators later discovered that she had recently wired $500,000 to the Royal Bank of Nova Scotia, and bumped her bail up to a cool $1 million. In March, she was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular operation, and in April she was sentenced to seven years in prison. But the more lasting verdict was pronounced by Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, when she said, "This just goes to show you winning the Powerball doesn't guarantee happiness."


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