Eddie Tipton, a former information security director at the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), has been found guilty of interfering with the company’s random number generator in order to ‘win’ a $14.3 million Hot Lotto jackpot.
Eddie Tipton, 52, was director of information security for the Iowa lottery, giving him inside knowledge on how it worked and high-level access. And, a court heard yesterday, he hacked the system to make sure a certain set of numbers came up.
He then tampered with security cameras to make sure nobody saw him do it, and a month later bought a ticket with the numbers he knew would win.
Because his rules of employment forbade him from playing the lottery, Tipton then handed the winning ticket to a friend, New York lawyer Crawford Shaw, who attempted to claim the prize.
However, Shaw refused to give the name of the original buyer of the ticket; and, as Iowa law requires jackpot winners to be identified, the money was never paid.
Eddie Tipton, apparently, did a good job of covering his tracks. In the CCTV images of the ticket being bought, he’s wearing a hood to disguise his face. He was also, it’s claimed, able to wipe his stealth software from the lottery machine after the event.
“I think that we had a very strong case of circumstantial evidence, so even though there was not direct evidence in the terms of what we can actually show about the computers since it had been wiped clean, they were still able to understand from all of the circumstances, the defendant`s guilt,” assistant Attorney General of Iowa Rob Sand told WHO TV.
Eddie Tipton now faces ten years in jail.
However, Tipton’s lawyer, Dean Stowers told Channel 13 News, says he plans to appeal on the grounds of insufficient evidence, and believes the decision won’t be allowed to stand.
“We repeatedly objected to the jury being allowed to speculate and engage in conjecture, and unfortunately that’s what we we’ve wound up with, is with a verdict,” he told Channel 13 News.
Of course, most cases of alleged lottery fraud are rather less sophisticated – it’s not everybody that has the skills or the access to tamper with the lottery computer itself.
More typical are attempts like that of Manchester shop worker Farrakh Nizzar, who in 2012 tried to pass off a winning ticket as his own. When Maureen Holt asked him if her ticket had won, he told her it was worthless, before attempting to cash it in himself.
The scam, though, was easy to detect, as Nizzar was wrong about the place the winning ticket had been bought.
A year later, Gravesend shopkeeper Imran Pervais attempted to do the same thing. But he was easily caught out when the lottery machine showed that the winning ticket had been scanned successfully, meaning Pervais knew full well it was a winner.
And Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich says the experience has led him to tighten up security to make sure this could never happen again.
“This case is an important reminder that lotteries have to keep monitoring and making improvements to stay ahead of those who would try to beat the system,” he says.
“As a society, we may never be able to stop people from trying to commit crime, but we need to have strong procedures in place to catch and prevent them when they do.”