The legal wheels have started turning after there was a Hot Lotto drawing that got rigged. The extradition trial begins this week for the $16.5 million Hot Lotto fraud case. After several months of complicated investigations and legal wrangling, legal actions have been taken against two men who have been accused of rigging a multi-state Hot Lotto computerized drawing. Read the full story.
When Sugar Land resident Robert C. Rhodes first endorsed Eddie Tipton on the professional networking website LinkedIn, he deemed his friend and former business partner as someone “very focused on the bottom line” and someone he would work with again “in a second.”
These two men both attended the University of Houston and worked closely together for seven years until the year 2003 when Systems Evolution, identified Tipton as the chief operations officer.
10 years later, these two men have been charged with trying to defraud a multi-state lottery organization of $16.5 million in a Hot Lotto game. The case has drawn national attention as a mystery of sorts. The man claiming to be the winner contacting lottery officials later said he was representing someone who wanted to remain anonymous.
Lottery officials hesitated at paying the amount. They said certain security criterion wasn’t met and prosecutors later determined that the attempt was an inside job by Tipton. The man’s former partner, Rhodes, was also accused of being part of the plan.
Tipton lives in Norwalk, Iowa and was charged with two counts of fraud, a class D felony. His trial has been set for the 13th of July 2015. Rhodes has been charged with one count of forgery and one count of fraud, both D felonies. He is currently in Texas, free on a $10,000 bail. He has also surrendered his passport.
Tipton’s defence attorney, Dean Stowers, said one charge accuses his client of tampering with lottery equipment at the Multi-State Lottery Association, causing it to generate the winning numbers. The other charge accuses him of buying the ticket, which as an employee of the lottery is strictly prohibited.
“They refuse to specify exactly what they’re claiming or exactly when they claim that it happened,” Stowers said, referring to the tampering allegation. “However, as best as we can tell, they’re claiming that on November 20th, 2010, five or six weeks before December 29th, he accessed the computer, or both of the computers that generate the winning numbers, and somehow planted some kind of software on there that activated and generated the numbers, you know, five or six weeks later.”
Rhodes’ attorneys couldn’t be reached for any comments. In court documents filed with the Fort Bend District Clerk’s office seeking a bail reduction – the bail was initially set at $50,000 – his attorneys said that he has joint custody of three children, regularly pays child support and doesn’t have a prior conviction. The details of the charges against the men are outlined in affidavits filed in Iowa.
Nearly a year later on the third of December, 2011, a Canadian man contacted lottery officials and told them that he was the winner. He gave them some important information, such as certain numbers on the ticket, but authorities became sceptical of the answers to other questions, like what he was wearing on the day he bought the ticket. The man then later said that he was actually representing someone who wanted to remain anonymous. A New York colleague of the Canadian man later met with lottery officials to try and claim the winning ticket, but they were also denied but lottery officials.
The Canadian man then later told the authorities that Rhodes and a Houston attorney, two people he knew, contacted him in October 2011, looking for help with collection of the winnings. The New York attorney then told the authorities that he knew the Houston attorney.
Last year October, the lottery organization released the video of the ticket purchase and four days later a lottery employee told authorities that the man in the image was Tipton. When questioned by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations, Tipton said that he was in Houston the day the ticket was bought, visiting relatives.
Cell phone records also indicate that he was in the Des Moines area on the date the ticket was bought, according to affidavits. During that interview, Tipton didn’t mention Rhodes’ name. After citing cell phone records again, authorities said that records indicated frequent lengthy calls between Tipton and Rhodes, sometimes an hour, including the day when the ticket was bought.
Defence attorney Stowers said Tipton doesn’t match the identity of the person who bought the ticket, and the evidence proves that it couldn’t have been possible for his client to have “tampered with the computers in any way” that would create the “scenario” that state says happened.
“He’s looking forward to his trial when all of the speculation can end, and all of the allegations made can be brought forth in court if they even have any merit to them, and so the jury can make a decision on his case because he’s very anxious to move with his life,” said Stowers.
At the January news conference, Iowa Lottery official Terry Rich said his organization believes this is the largest lottery jackpot to ever be claimed, only to “have that claim withdrawn”. Rich added further, “This truly is one of the strangest situations in the history of lotteries.”
This seems like quite a pickle Eddie Tipton has gotten himself into. What are your thoughts?
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The PlayHugeLottos Team
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