Biggest Lottery Scams Ever
Wherever there’s big money to be had, you can be sure that somebody somewhere is trying to get their hands on it by dishonest means. So is should come as no surprise that lottery jackpots have been the subject of countless scams over the years. Here’s a run-down of the most memorable deceptions, all of which fell flat.
The Tipton Scam
Despite being one of the more sophisticated scams in this post, the Tipton scam was still foiled by authorities…eventually anyway. Tommy Tipton, a former justice of the peace no less, was convicted along with his brother Eddie for taking part in a conspiracy to rig six lottery jackpots in five US states, to the tune of $19 million.
Eddie, who worked at the Multi-State Lottery Association, used a USB flash drive to install a rootkit on the computer that generated the actual numbers. The malware then directed the computer to use an algorithm instead of randomly generating numbers.
This enabled the brothers to correctly predict the lottery results on three days of the year. Once the potential winning numbers were identified, the Tiptons and a family friend set about purchasing winning tickets with the fixed numbers. Authorities finally caught on after they identified the suspicious jackpots as well as the rootkit codes. It later transpired that Eddie Tipton had actually helped build the number generators.
The Triple Six Fix
This particular scam targeted a Pennsylvania Lottery game called the Daily Number. The scheme, which was actually conceived by its announcer, Nick Berry, involved weighing down all the lottery balls, apart from four and six. This of course meant that the resulting draw was almost certain to include a combination of sixes and fours.
Although a relatively simple concept, the plan was rather elaborate. Berry first asked lettering expert and art director Joseph Bock to create weighted ping-pong balls to mimic the official ones used in the lottery machines. Bock obliged and, after a number of experiments, came up with a white latex paint to use for the numbering.
Numerous trials were then conducted to ensure that the balls were correctly weighted, so that they hovered over the bottom of the machine while avoiding the vacuum draw tube. Edward Plevel was also in on the deception and allowed Berry access to the machines by leaving them unattended at certain intervals.
Additionally, stagehand Fred Luman, was required to switch the original balls with the weighted ones. The plan worked to perfection on April 24 1980, when the number 666 was drawn. Sadly for Berry and his cronies, they let too many people in on the conspiracy so when authorities noticed numerous suspicious betting patterns, the game was up. All of the scammers were eventually sent to prison and the vast majority of winnings were never paid out.
One of the more dastardly lottery scams in recent times originated in Milan, Italy. It was custom in certain parts of Europe during the 80s and 90s to have blindfolded children draw lotteries to show that nothing underhanded was going on. You’d think that using children to ‘guarantee’ probity, might raise questions about a lottery’s trustworthiness in the first place.
Nevertheless, the Italian general public remained blissfully unaware of the scheme for the better part of a decade, during which time, their actual state operator used just such an approach. Numbered balls were put through a metal basket before blindfolded children dutifully picked them out.
However, in 1999 things started to unravel when it was revealed that a number of lotteries had fallen victim to a Dickensian swindle. It was discovered that youngsters had been trained to draw lottery balls which were slightly smoother and larger than the others.
They were also taught how to squint through their loosened blindfolds and pick balls that were hotter than the others; one child’s hand was actually burned due an overheated lottery ball. It turned out that many of the the wayward delinquents were relatives of finance ministry officials and had been paid off in toys as well as millions of lire.
The outrageous deception, which was worth around $174 million, was eventually discovered after an official involved in the racket was posted to a different lottery outpost. The disgruntled co-conspirators, who wanted to keep the scam going, started harassing their former colleague by shooting at his car and premises. His wife then reported this to the police and arrests were made -among the villains were a number government employees.
This particular tale of the unexpected, is not so much a scam but more of a loophole. In 2007, lottery vendor Zhao Liqun discovered that after winning numbers were drawn on China’s Welfare Lottery, there was a five minute window in which a qualified ticket could still be purchased.
So the hapless Liqun decided to exploit this to the full, treating himself to numerous ‘winning tickets’ and then claiming the prizes. To conceal his precarious plan, he asked friends to cash the tickets on his behalf. Unfortunately, for reasons still unknown, the lottery centre in which his fraudulent tickets were cashed, eventually became wise to the scam and went to the police.
Zhao was soon arrested and promptly sentenced to life in prison. He appealed his outrageous sentence a few years later but to no avail. It seems that everything is bigger in China, even jail-time.