But 97-year-old impoverished Het is hoping for a repeat performance after winning - and losing - more than $400,000 in lottery windfall
97-year-old Nguyen Van Het of Ho Chi Minh City's District 11 hopes he will win the lottery again after giving away most of the $400,000 he won last year
That's what his neighbors call the 97- year-old former cyclo driver.
Nguyen Van Het, who lives in Ho Chi Minh City's District 11, is indeed broke less than a year after he hit the lottery jackpot, winning more than US$400,000 in February 2010. He has begun asking neighbors for money recently to buy small things, including more lottery tickets.
Local authorities had to step in to maintain order and ensure the safety of lottery winner Het, who lives with his wife in a charity house on Lac Long Quan Street in Ward 5. The elderly couple live below the poverty line and have been described by acquaintances as senile.
Het won a total of VND7.6 billion ($405,333), a massive sum in a country where the annual per capita income is around $1,000. After winning the lottery, Het told Thanh Nien that he had dreamed that he would win the lottery three times.
Het's neighbors reported that droves of strangers began showing up at his house claiming to be his relatives in hopes of a slice of the cash pie. Het admitted that he was tired because so many strangers had been arriving at his door asking for money. Many had claimed to be long-lost relatives.
"I couldn't believe I had so many relatives and grandchildren. Thanks to the lottery, I have met distant relatives that I'd lost contact with," Het said.
He's lost contact with them again, apparently.
Nearly a year after Het won the lottery, Thanh Nien returned to his home to find little had changed in his very small house. It had been repainted and the floor repaved, but he was still using his old furniture.
Het said he was sad because his relatives had stopped coming when he had no more money to give out.
Het lives with his step-daughter, To Thi Dien, and her husband after his wife Nguyen Thi Ba died last July.
Dien was also frustrated and angry.
"Everyone claimed to be his relative after he won the lottery. It is so bad that none of them visited him after he gave away most his money," she said.
Earlier, Het had authorized his granddaughter Nguyen Thi Lieu to manage his money while another granddaughter, Nguyen Thi Oanh, agreed to stay and take care of him for a monthly payment of VND1.5 million, apart from VND100 million Het had given her to treat her sick son'.
The two granddaughters used to quarrel over a daily sum of VND500,000 Lieu was supposed to pay Oanh to take care of Het, the Tuoi Tre reported.
Het said he had to suffer the duo's quarrels regularly, while relatives no longer visited him as they used to do in the days after he won the lottery.
"I used to have good health. But my heart developed problems after I won the lottery," he said.
A neighbor said it was Het's generosity that led to this tragedy.
A local official, Cao Hoang Khuong, said Het had donated VND600 million ($30,774) to local ward and district charity funds, besides gifting his relatives. Het also showed Thanh Nien many notes of and papers about the money he had donated. One of them showed a donation of VND250 million ($12,820) to a local charity.
Another official said that in September 2010, Het had just VND850 million ($43,600) in his bank account, about a tenth of his winnings.
He also said Het pledged that he would donate VND600 million of this to charity and set aside VND250 million for his funeral.
Het, meanwhile, would like to do it all over again. Win and give it away.
"I just had a dream in which I won another lottery," he said. "I will have much money again to give away to others. Then, people would come to my house and it would be joyful again. It is really sad having no one visit me."