Scott Dole thought he'd scored the jackpot — or at least $51,600 — when he won "Wheel of Fortune."
More than a year later, he hasn't seen a dime.
A messy divorce between the 40-year-old Vancouver man and his wife has placed the winnings in escrow until the courts can sort through who gets what.
Turns out it's been somewhat of a wheel of misfortune.
His wife wants half of the money, though she filed for divorce well before he taped the show.
He might have to pay taxes on the winnings, without actually having seen the money.
And his brush with fame has prolonged finalizing his divorce by more than a year.
"This could have been done in 90 days," he said last week.
It all started in March 2008 when Carrie Dole filed for divorce in Clark County Superior Court. However, the couple later decided to reunite and moved in together.
At the prompting of his wife, Scott, a part-time longshoreman, decided to audition for "Wheel of Fortune" when the show had open casting calls in Portland in 2009. "I'm good at the show, so she signed me up," he recalled.
Weeks later, the dog and cat owner got a congratulatory letter, telling him that he would be featured on the show's Pet Lovers Week.
In October 2009, the Doles went to Culver City, Calif., to film the show. Coincidentally, the couple started arguing again, Scott Dole said, and on the day of filming, they didn't speak at all.
Scott Dole said he didn't talk to Carrie until after he won the money, when she was congratulating him on the set.
"It's pretty funny how money mends wounds," Scott said.
It didn't mend the wounds enough. The next month, Carrie Dole moved out again and renewed her petition for dissolution. With the renewed petition came the request that the "Wheel of Fortune" winnings be placed into a trust pending the outcome of the divorce. The money, which is $46,988 after taxes, was then placed in escrow at a local bank.
The divorce is scheduled to go to trial May 2.
At issue is whether the money is the couple's community property — and would, therefore, be subject to the state's community property law mandating equal separation of assets — or whether it's just Scott Dole's property.
Scott Dole's attorney, Carolyn Drew of Vancouver, filed a motion in September saying the money was separate property.
Carrie Dole's attorney, Suzan Clark of Vancouver, disputes this argument. She says going on the show and winning the money is considered an earning. Also, the money was obtained while the couple were in a period of reconciliation, meaning that it's community property.
"While it may not sound like working, it's considered working that he was on 'Wheel of Fortune,"' Clark said.
Scott Dole's attorney, Drew, did not return phone calls from The Columbian seeking comment.
Scott Horenstein, a prominent Vancouver divorce attorney who is not involved in the case, weighed in on the dilemma. He said he thought the case hinged on whether the two were living together at the time Scott Dole won the money and whether the prize money could be considered an earning, falling under the community property law.
"It's not clear cut," Horenstein said. But "everything you do when you're married is joined," including winning a game show while on your marriage is on the rocks, he added.
Horenstein did say, though, there could be a legal loophole for prizes that he's not familiar with.
Attempts to reach Carrie Dole were unsuccessful. However, in December court papers she said she was worried about her husband obtaining the "Fortune" money before the trial.
Carrie Dole said in court papers that as an elementary school teacher, she needs money to help pay bills.
"If Mr. Dole gets his hands on any of that money, it will be the last that I see of it," she wrote in a court declaration. "And it won't matter to Mr. Dole if the judge tells him to pay me back. I will have to spend years trying to get that money from him."
Scott Dole had requested some of the money to help him pay taxes on the prize, but Superior Court Judge James Rulli denied his request.
Scott Dole said last week, however, that it shouldn't be a problem to pay the taxes if the case goes to trial in May, as he could file for an extension.
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