Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lotto winner goes to prison for tax evasion

TAMPA — Two decades ago, Rhoda Toth won $13-million from the Florida Lotto. Then she and her late husband spent it all, declared bankruptcy and were indicted for tax evasion.

Toth, 51, stood in federal court Friday hunched over a walker, braces on her wrists and left knee. She told a judge her multiple sclerosis left her with only a year or two to live. Despite admitting to filing a false tax return, she begged to be spared jail.

Little did she know the Internal Revenue Service had secretly videotaped her, sans walker, in an effort to prove Toth was merely trying to avoid jail by exaggerating her medical condition.

If that was her plan, it didn't work. Chief U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich ignored her pleas and sentenced her to two years in prison. Toth will also have to pay $1.1-million in restitution to the IRS.

It has been 18 years since the Toths won the lottery. When they bought the winning ticket, they had $24.76 to their names.

But somehow, that windfall wasn't enough to last them more than a decade. They filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in 2001 and 2002 and, at the time of their indictment, were said to have owed the IRS a combined $2.5 million.

Toth pleaded guilty in November to filing a false tax return. Her husband, Alex, died in April at the age of 60 before he could stand trial.

Before her plea, Toth had faced decades in prison. But Friday, she asked to be spared jail altogether.

"If I go to prison," she said, "I'll probably die in prison."

The IRS saw it coming.

On Wednesday, an agent had videotaped her walking outside her Spring Hill home. Special Agent Frank DeRosa pointed out that the braces on her wrists and left knee seen in court Friday were conspicuously absent.

Her public defender said Toth didn't need to use her walker all the time. Kovachevich appeared unconvinced.

"It is what it is," the judge said, watching.

Then she sent Toth to prison.

Lotto winner goes to prison for tax evasion 08/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2008 12:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gerald McCoy cares too much about what you think of him

    The Heater

    Gerald McCoy is right. We are going to miss him when he's gone.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of 16 players to record at least five sacks in each of the past five seasons. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Nine years later, library attack victim Queena works at learning to walk again


    Slowly, Queena Phu is learning the act of walking again through exercises in locomotion, strength and balance.

    Queena Phu of Tampa and prosecutor Rita Peters arrive at the Stay In Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center on Monday.
 Phu, 27, has endured a long road to recovery after suffering brain damage from a brutal attack that left her unable to walk, talk, see or eat on her own. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]
  3. Editorial: Bad decisions led to St. Petersburg's sewage crisis


    A scathing state report on St. Petersburg's massive sewage spills erases any lingering doubts that Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration recklessly closed a sewer plant before adding capacity elsewhere. It also accuses the city of violating state law and questions the wisdom of other decisions, from relying on deep …

A scathing state report on St. Petersburg's massive sewage spills erases any lingering doubts that Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration recklessly closed a sewer plant before adding capacity elsewhere.
  4. FWC: Polk man tried to sell gator tail


    A Lakeland man faces charges after he killed an alligator, cut off its tail and tried to sell the meat to neighbors, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    Shaun Sparks, 33, and Christy Michelle Vincent, 27, both of Lakeland, face charges after trying to sell an alligator tail that Sparks had cut off. [Photos courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Watch Round 3 of Feeding Tampa Bay's Epic Chef Showdown


    TAMPA — Round 3 of the third annual Epic Chef Showdown to benefit Feeding Tampa Bay is Monday night, and you can watch it live right here.

    Chef Richard Bergendale of The Mill restaurant and Sous Chef Jeff Thornsberry of Locale Market competed in Round 1 of the Epic Chef Showdown. [Epicurean Hotel / Feeding Tampa Bay]