1.In 1965, Andre-Francois Raffray, a lawyer, made a deal with 90-year-old Jeanne Calment: He would pay her rent, 2,500 francs (around $621 in 2018) every month until her death. He would then keep the apartment in Arles, France, once she died. Calment went on to outlive Raffray. He died in 1996 at the age of 77. Calment died one year later at the age of 122. According to the New York Times, Raffray paid a total of $180,000 (around $280,000 in 2018) for an apartment he never lived in. After his death, his family was legally required to continue paying for Calment's apartment.
2.In 2010, when officials in Tokyo went to congratulate 111-year-old Sogen Kato on being the city's oldest man alive, they were turned away by his 81-year-old daughter. After welfare officials were denied a visit several times, they became suspicious and asked the police to investigate. They soon discovered Kato's mummified body, wearing underwear and pajamas, lying in bed, covered with a blanket. Kato had been dead for almost 30 years. His daughter had hidden his death and collected $106,000 in pension payments.
3.In 1979, the Institute for Historical Review offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who could provide evidence that Jews were gassed at Auschwitz. The organization contended that "gas chambers were not used to murder the Jews and that there was no campaign of genocide." When Mel Mermelstein, an Auschwitz survivor, submitted proof in 1981, the organization rescinded the offer. Mermelstein sued the institute, and in 1985 he was awarded the $50,000 under the terms of a court settlement.
4.Herbert Sukenik was a recluse living in a small, rent-controlled apartment in New York City’s Mayflower Hotel. He was one of four tenants who had to be swayed to move out of the Mayflower after it was purchased by developers in 2004. While the other three moved out for a substantial amount of money (one of the tenants got $650,000), Sukenik refused to move. The developers did everything in their power to get him to leave, even starting noisy construction around his side of the building. After two years, Sukenik received a reported $17 million to vacate the building, with an additional $2 million replacement condo, which would be rented out to him for just $1 a month.
5.In 1996, Denise Rossi won $1.3 million in the California lottery. Eleven days later, she filed for divorce from her husband and chose to keep her prize a secret. She said in a deposition that she concealed her winnings because she didn't want her ex-husband to "get his hands" on her money. In the end, a family court judge ruled that she violated state asset disclosure laws and awarded the ex-husband all of her lottery winnings.
6.In 2001, Charles Ingram, with the help of his wife, Diana, and fellow contestant Tecwen Whittock, cheated his way to a million pounds on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? using coughs. Ingram would verbally go over the four answers to each question, and Whittock would cough to signal the right answer. The Ingrams and Whittock were given suspended prison sentences, and had to pay a total of £115,000 in fines and legal fees.
7.In 1919, J.D. McMahon, a Philadelphia oil man and promoter, swindled investors after making them believe he would build a 480-foot high-rise office building in Wichita Falls, Texas. Instead, they got a 480-inch, four-story building with no stairway, also known as "the world's littlest skyscraper." McMahon took the money and went on the run. When investors tried to sue him, a judge told them that they had approved the building exactly as it was built. None of the investors had noticed that the scale on the blueprints was in inches instead of feet.
8.When Oscar-winner Michael Cimino directed Heaven's Gate in 1980, the film had an initial budget of $11.6 million (nearly $40 million in 2018). But, due to the director's insistence on absolute perfection, including waiting for clouds to clear out of the sky for a shot, the film went over budget. The final budget for the film skyrocketed to $44 million (nearly $130 million in 2018). The film, plagued by bad press (they blew up horses), behind-the-scenes drama, and bad reviews, grossed only $3.5 million ($10 million in 2018). United Artists, the iconic studio that produced the film, went bankrupt and was sold to MGM.
9.Jackie Coogan, who appeared alongside Charlie Chaplin in The Kid, had earned roughly $4 million working as a child actor. Shortly after turning 21, he discovered that his mother and stepfather had spent the majority of his fortune. After Coogan decided to sue them, his mother stated, "No promises were ever made to give Jackie anything." The stepfather followed up with, "Every dollar a kid earns before he's 21 belongs to his parents. Jackie will never get a cent of his earnings." The lawsuit led to the Coogan Act, which gives legal protections to child actors' earnings in California.
10.In 2011, in France, a woman successfully sued her ex-husband over his refusal to have sex with her during their marriage. The sex drought lasted 21 years, and a judge ordered the ex-husband to pay $15,000, valuing his "services" at $714 a year.
11.In 1984, Detective Robert Cunningham was at Sal's Pizzeria near Yonkers, New York, when he was about to pay his bill. He made a deal with his server, Phyllis Penzo, that instead of him paying her a tip, they would split the winnings of a $1 lottery ticket he had just purchased. She agreed, and together they picked numbers. On April 1, he called up Penzo to tell her that he had just won $6 million and she was entitled to half of it. The two would split the $285,715-a-year payout for the next 21 years.
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