Did one guy really attempt to do the impossible?
Lottery workers around the world are changing people’s lives and bringing dreams to life with lottery jackpots. Playing the game is about more than just winning the prize, it’s a shot at a new life, with everything you’ve ever dreamed about. Every lottery sequence has an equal chance of winning the jackpot and that only adds to the thrill of the game. But one guy from Texas decided he could cheat the system and win lottery jackpots from around USA. And he pulled it off too!
Meet the guy with the big plan
Eddie Tipton was an information security director of the American Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) and played ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ in his spare time. In an interview, his brother described Eddie as “a very large” and “kind of lonesome” man. One would never guess that this is the same guy who rocked the lottery industry to its core.
In 2005, during a casual conversation with a co-worker, a seed was planted in Eddie that would later spark his decision to commit fraud:
“Hey, did you put your secret numbers in there?” Schaller asked him.
“What do you mean?” Tipton replied.
“Well, you know, you can set numbers on any given day, since you wrote the software.”
Later that night, this 41-year-old began the biggest fraud anyone has ever seen.
The big plan
According to the office of Iowa, Attorney General Tom Miller described Tipton as the go-to person who designed and maintained software "for computerized random number generators used to select winning lottery numbers in many states across the country".
Tipton’s working space quickly became covered in sticky notes with a range of numbers that co-workers assumed were reminder notes, but they were actually potential winning numbers.
The numbers Tipton was recording were generated from a cryptic two-line software code that he installed in his employer’s computer system at the Multi-State Lottery Association.
Tipton took advantage of the quiet offices as he ran test after test to narrow down the possible winning numbers for an upcoming Colorado draw with a $4.8million jackpot!
Tipton’s code allowed him to zero in on potential winning numbers by taking the odds from 1 in 5 million, to 1 in 200 and eventually a 100% chance of being drawn.
Winning his first jackpot
Remember that $4.8 million jackpot Tipton was aiming for? He ended up winning it!
When Tipton was investigated for this suspicious winning, he simply chalked it up to luck explaining that his “brother was going on a trip, and I suggested that I had some numbers that he could play," According to Eddie, it was as simple as that. "That was pretty much it."
But his brother, Tommy, had a different story. According to Tommy, who was a magistrate in Fayette County Texas at the time, he was suspicious when his brother gave him hundreds of sets of lottery numbers to play. Tommy decided to consult a friend and defence attorney Luis Vallejo, on whether or not this was legal, but Vallejo gave the go-ahead and didn’t find it suspicious at all.
Then the winning numbers were drawn and 3 people came forward to claim the prize; a local Colorado resident who was not linked to the conspiracy; Alexander Hicks, a friend of Tommy’s who was recruited to cash in the ticket, and Texas lawyer Thad Whisenant.
The first investigation
The local won using an ‘easy pick’ ticket, so the numbers were chosen for him using a machine and no one batted an eye when he claimed the prize, but the others looked suspicious to officials and they were investigated.
The FBI managed to link Hicks to Tommy and after an hour-long interrogation, the issue was dropped.
The colossal mistake
December 12, 2010 marks the date that eventually led to Tipton’s capture - he bought his own lottery ticket.
For nearly 5 years Eddie had others buy the tickets for him, but on that date, he purchased a ticket only 10 miles from the Multi-State Lottery Association offices.
Despite this fatal decision, Eddie was still smart. Knowing he had been caught on camera, he asked a close friend, Robert Rhodes to cash it in, with specific instructions not to wait until the very end.
But his best friend didn’t listen.
The winning ticket had won $16.5 million, and with no winner coming forward to claim their prize, there was a lot of press around the issue. Tipton knew this would happen that’s why he gave his friend specific instructions.
It wasn’t until 2 hours before the 4pm cut off time on December 29, 2011 that Tipton’s friend cashed in the ticket.
Tipton’s friend hoped to cash in anonymously and sent two attorney's to claim it for him. But, Iowa state law requires lottery winners names and addresses to be made public in order to win - and his name was all over the news.
What was the sentence?
With all the press surrounding the unclaimed jackpot, it still took investigators another 3 years to connect Tipton to the lottery scheme and sentence him. On January 15, 2015 Tipton was charged with two counts of felony and later faced other charges related to fraudulent wins and money laundering in other states.
Rhodes pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 6 months of home confinement and paid out $409,000 in restitution money.
Rhodes also testified against Eddie and Tommy who pleaded guilty and paid $2.2 million in restitution.
Tommy received 75 days in jail while Eddie was sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Interesting facts around the biggest lottery scheme:
- Eddie Tipton was already a convicted felon when he was hired at MUSL, for reasons unknown, he was still hired.
- The only reason Tommy Tipton was investigated for his first lottery win was because he was in hospital after falling from a 31-foot tree while hunting Bigfoot.
- After pulling off the first lottery win, Eddie Tipton warned his boss that there were issues with their security, but his warnings went unnoticed - giving Tipton freedom to rob them.
- Over the years Tipton rigged 5 draws totalling more than $24 million worth of prizes in Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma.
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*images from the Chicago Tribune*
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