Rigging a lottery to win millions of dollars?
That doesn’t really sound realistic, does it?
One brave man in Iowa collected a Wisconsin Lottery jackpot that his friend had rigged. Robert Rhodes then used his unscrupulous winnings to create an investment scheme that produced even more underhanded government money.
Rhodes is an accomplice in a scandal that shook U.S. state lotteries to the core. Under oath, he has explained how he used a little over $700,000 to receive another $180,000 in fake tax returns. The Texas businessman was quick to send his winnings offshore to purchase bogus insurance policies for a personal business that, well, never really existed.
Rhodes then claimed the policy as a “business expense” and it was tax deductible.
In total, he received around $150,000 from the U.S. government and a further $36,200 in tax refunds from the Wisconsin lottery payout.
But, Rhode’s didn’t act alone.
His friend, Eddie Tipton, a former security director for none other than then Multi-State Lottery Association, is now known to have rigged the December 2007 Megabucks lottery.
This wasn’t Tipton’s first dabble with deception.
The 50-something-year-old has admitted in court that he had previously provided people with winning jackpot numbers in Colorado (2005), Kansas (2010), and Oklahoma (2011).
Back in December 2010, a certain man walked into a Quik Trip store and bought the winning ticket in a Hot Lotto draw. That ticket rendered him $16,5 million richer.
Yet, the prize remained unclaimed for almost a year.
Fast forward to November 2011, and a Canadian man got in touch with the Iowa Lottery, claiming he was the winner. In December of that year, he said he actually wasn’t the winner himself but was representing the real winner who wished to remain anonymous.
Later that same month, a New York lawyer claimed the prize on behalf of a Belize-based trust. Nobody could provide even the most basic details about the winner – which is actually required by Iowa law.
The lawyer eventually withdrew the claim and the money was returned to the states where the tickets were sold.
Talk about peculiar!
Investigators refused to give up on this incredibly curious case.
Three years later, surveillance footage was released showing a man in a hoodie purchasing the winning ticket. More than a handful of people identified the hooded “winner” as Edward Tipton.
Consequently, Tipton was charged with fraud in 2015. Investigators put forth that Tipton could secure the winning ticket with the help of self-destructing software that he installed on lottery computers. He then filtered the ticket via a friend in Texas – Robert Rhodes.
Tipton was finally found guilty of two counts of fraud and sentenced to a decade in prison.
The investigation didn’t stop there. Investigators finally figured out that Tipton further rigged the 2005 $4.8 million Colorado jackpot, the 2007 $2 million Wisconsin jackpot, and, claim investigators, there are allegations of rigged jackpots in Oklahoma and Kansas.
Once the investigation became a nationwide affair, Charles Strutt, the executive director of Powerball, was placed on what they dubbed “indefinite administrative leave.” It was later reported that Strutt hoped to return to work at the end of the Tipton case.
Tipton still denies some of the allegations.
While this entire debacle sounds like something out of an Oceans Eleven-type story, it’s really difficult for anyone to successfully rig a lottery.
One of the closest attempts to success came when Richard Knowlton, the guy who ran the computers for the Kansas lottery, used those computers to turn losing scratch cards into winners. Knowlton claimed it was all an attempt to prove that the system wasn’t as secure as we think.
But, that’s a one-off.
There’s really no evidence that lotteries are rigged in any fashion, either by players or the operators themselves. In fact, lotteries don’t have a need to rig the system. They’re a game of chance, and winning means that Lady Luck is on your side – nothing more!
We only really do read about rigging when someone’s caught out, and it’s usually over a larger jackpot. But, if anyone was truly clever enough to rig a lottery, we’d have known all about it by now.