A married couple that won a $500,000 lottery jackpot is now accused of a burglary spree

Stephanie Harvell and her husband, Mitchell Arnswald, won $500,000 from an instant lottery ticket in 2016.
Source: Michigan Lottery

Police in Michigan have reportedly arrested a married couple that they suspect is behind a months-long burglary spree. The couple's arrest comes just three years after they won a $500,000 lottery jackpot.

Stephanie Harvell, 28, and her husband, Mitchell Arnswald, 29, were arraigned on Friday on charges for second-degree home invasion and possession of burglary tools, according to The Bay City Times newspaper.

Harvell and Arnswald were struggling financially when they won the $500,000 prize from a $5 Hot Jackpot instant lottery ticket in January 2016, and they told Michigan state lottery officials at the time that the prize "couldn't have come at a better time." The couple had been living paycheck to paycheck at that time, struggling to support their two young daughters, they said.

"I cried like a baby when I saw what I'd won. I still can't believe it," Harvell said in a statement in 2016. Not long before winning the lottery, the couple had received an eviction notice at their home in Bay City, Michigan.

"We both work really hard, and it's been tough to support our family," Harvell said in 2016. "We recently lost a car and the day I scratched off this ticket we got an eviction notice."

Harvell and Arnswald told state lottery officials in 2016 that they planned to use their winnings to buy a house and a new car, and to establish a college fund for their daughters.

How the Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries work

However, over three years later, the couple is now in police custody and suspected of committing a string of home burglaries across five Michigan counties.

After police received a report of a burglary in Merritt Township, Michigan on Thursday, August 29, they found Harvell and Arnswald in a nearby Ford SUV that matched the suspect vehicle description they'd received, Bay County Sheriff Troy Cunningham told The Bay City Times. After police found items allegedly stolen during the Merritt Township burglary in the couple's vehicle, Harvell and Arnswald were arrested. Investigators later found additional items allegedly tied to other recent burglaries in the couple's home.

A judge set the couple's bonds at $50,000 each.

It's not at all uncommon for past lottery winners to eventually plow through their winnings and fall upon tough times financially. In fact, there are multiple cases of past prize winners eventually turning to crime, including a man who went to prison for using his $3 million lottery win to buy a large supply of Methamphetamine and a woman who was charged with felony welfare fraud (she was later sentenced to probation) for collecting food stamps after winning $1 million on a game show.

There are enough stories of lottery winners' fortunes quickly evaporating to convince some people of the existence of "the curse of the lottery," especially since studies have shown that lottery winners to actually be more likely to declare bankruptcy within three to five years than the average American.

Some lottery winners are simply unprepared for such a large windfall and they suffer from poor financial planning, while others fall into the trap of being too generous divvying up their winnings among friends and family. That's why many financial experts advise lottery winners to be conservative with their prize money (put it in a savings account and live off of the compound interest), not to rush into any major purchases, and to learn how to say "no" to people asking for handouts.

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