Fred Topous, the Kent City man who just won $57 million in the Mega Millions lottery, is a registered sex offender with a criminal past.
A co-worker describes Topous as a man who turned his life around and would do anything for a friend.
Topous, 45, previously served time for larceny in Grand Traverse County. He's also been imprisoned on a weapons offense, unlawfully driving away in a vehicle, and forced-entry burglary. The burglary charge is from the 1980s.
He's also on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry for committing a criminal sexual assault with the intent to commit penetration. He registered in 1999, and is compliant.
24 Hour News 8 spoke with Joshua Hoch, who works with Topous at Structural Standards in Sparta. He said Topous is a family man who turned his life around after getting out of prison two years ago. He said everyone has their dirty secrets, only Topous' went public when he won the lottery.
Hoch said Topous should be left alone to enjoy his good fortune. "I didn't think its right for it to come out like this. Fred's a great guy. He doesn't need to be portrayed as a criminal. Everyone gets a second chance."
He described Topous as a hard worker who's always willing to do something extra to help out, a stand-up guy who'd give a friend the shirt off his back. Topous, Hoch said, is active in his church and has paid his debt to society for the mistakes he previously made.
"I think the truth needs to be told," he said. "He's not the bad person he's been made out to be. He deserves everything he got, and congratulations to you, Fred."
Topous claimed the Mega Millions jackpot prize on Tuesday and elected to take the $34 million lump sum payment.
He said he didn't know he had won until he stopped at Party World in Comstock Park on Monday to check the numbers.
Topous said he and his wife have worked multiple jobs to make ends meet, and now they plan on enjoying life a little bit.
This isn't the first time a winning lottery ticket has been sold at the store. A millionaire raffle ticket was bought there late last year.
The Michigan State Lottery said the only people who cannot play the lottery are those under 18 years of age, and those who work for the lottery. ..Source.. by
Mega Millions winner does not owe state any of his $34 million
GRAND RAPIDS -- Michigan's latest Mega Millions millionaire doesn't owe the state a penny for his five years of room and board in prison.
Any debt to society for the Kent City man's keep was cleared when he went free.
As word of Fred Topous' $57 million winning ticket spread, prison officials on Wednesday asked the attorney general's office if costs for time he served in prison could be recovered, as is allowed in some cases.
Wednesday's answer: No.
Topous, in prison or on parole for all but three years since 1984 for three separate convictions, was discharged from the Department of Corrections on Oct. 20, 2006, after successfully completing two years on parole, a corrections official said.
That means the attorney general can't go after any of his assets as it has with others, including Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
"As long as you've been discharged from the Michigan Department of Corrections, we can't start litigation to cover the cost of his care," said Rusty Hills, spokesman for Attorney General Mike Cox.
"It's his good luck and our bad luck."
The average cost of incarceration is about $30,000 a year. Even if Topous had to reimburse the state, it would hardly put a dent in his winnings -- nearly $34 million after he took the lump-sum payout rather than installments over 20 years.
Prisons spokesman Russ Marlan said Topous had a "decent" record in prison and had a job while on parole.
Noting Topous' win, Marlan added, "We do take donations."
Topous, 45, bought Friday's winning ticket at Party World in Alpine Township and claimed the prize in Lansing Tuesday.
Clerks described him as a nice customer who bought beer and liked to chit-chat. He worked at Structural Standards in Sparta. He did not return messages left on his cell phone but told lottery officials he planned a long vacation and would use the money to buy a house and cover education costs for his children.
Because the multi-state Mega Millions winners must be identified, unlike Michigan-only lottery winners, Topous' past convictions put a different spin on the typical lottery rags-to-riches story.
That includes details of his most serious conviction, a 1999 plea bargain in which Topous pleaded guilty to a criminal sexual conduct charge of assault with intent to commit sexual penetration.
According to police and court records, Topous, then 35, befriended the 13-year-old daughter of his boss. Her mother became suspicious about a new boyfriend her daughter would only talk about and called police after she came home with alcohol on her breath, according to Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department reports.
Topous told investigators the girl and her sister would stop by his Kingsley home periodically and would help themselves to beer in his refrigerator. He denied a sexual relationship, and "stated that he had a wife and kids and that he would never 'do that to them,'" police reports said.
When asked to take a lie-detector test, he sat for a few seconds and said he wanted a lawyer, documents note.
The victim told police she visited his home several times and had spent the night there. She said she had sexual intercourse with him twice in early 1999 after drinking alcohol.
"No, he didn't force me," she wrote in a statement.
A minor cannot legally consent to sexual relations.
Originally charged with third-degree sexual assault and furnishing alcohol to a minor, Topous pleaded guilty to the assault with intent charge. He was sentenced to 5 1/2 to 10 years in prison.
After the defense attorney described the relationship as consensual, Grand Traverse County Circuit Judge Philip Rodgers Jr. condemned the act at sentencing, according to a court transcript, stating it would be "impossible" to put enough alcohol into the men in his courtroom to get them in bed with a 13-year-old. ..Source.. by John Agar | firstname.lastname@example.org