Eddie Tipton hijacked at least five winning drawings totaling more than $24million in prizes in Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma
He pulled off the biggest lottery scam in U.S. history.
Eddie Tipton hijacked at least five winning drawings totaling more than $24million in prizes in Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma.
The astonishing decade-long swindle saw him scoop enormous sums of money.
His biggest win – a $16.5million Hot Lotto prize in Iowa in 2010 – was never paid out and eventually led to his downfall.
In 2017 he was jailed to up to 25 years in prison for rigging supposedly random drawing jackpots.
His brother Tommy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft by deception and was given a 75-day jail sentence.
But how did the cunning Texan mastermind a fraud which shook the lottery industry to its core?
The seed was planted after a conversation with a colleague in 2005 who asked him: ‘Hey, did you put your secret numbers in there?’
‘What do you mean?’ Tipton replied.
‘Well, you know, you can set numbers on any given day, since you wrote the software,’ said the colleague.
He told police that exchange was the point he became inspired to find a way to circumvent painfully low odds of winning.
The gaming geek from Texas wrote a computer code which allowed him to predict the winning numbers in particular lottery games.
Was it for greed? No, said his brother.
Tipton – who was obsessed with the fantasy game ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ – was just inspired by the challenge, he said.
In 2017 he was jailed to up to 25 years in prison for rigging supposedly random drawing jackpots
His somewhat checkered past perhaps foretold his eventual downfall.
As a teenager he was convicted of stealing computer software from a department store.
The Texan later pleaded guilty to his part in a 1982 warehouse burglary.
It is not clear why lottery association executives overlooked Tipton’s criminal convictions.
His first win from the scam was on November 23, 2005 in a Colorado drawing – scooping a $4.8million jackpot.
He recruited a friend to cash the winning ticket.
Soon after the 2005 win, Tommy was left wheelchair-bound after falling out of a 31-foot tree.
Believe it or not, he had been hunting for Bigfoot – the ape-like creature from folklore.
His brother Tommy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft by deception and was given a 75-day jail sentence
As a child his grandmother had told him stories about a critter that would spook their farm animals in Arkansas.
And his curiosity about the beast intensified as an adult.
As the head of the Multi-State Lottery Association’s IT security, Eddie was making almost $100,000 a year but felt underappreciated and overworked.
Working 50- to 60-hour weeks, he was often in the office until 11pm.
‘They just found no limits to what they wanted to make me do,’ he said.
‘It even got to the point where the word ‘slave’ was used.’
Nobody was monitoring him closely and security wasn’t a top priority, he said.
He said he even warned lottery officials about the system’s security risks.
Once he alerted them to an error in the random-drawing software which led to the same numbers being drawn in the same order one year in Wisconsin.
‘I couldn’t document that I saw this gaping hole because they didn’t want to hear it or they didn’t want it written down anywhere,’ he said.
But the lack of oversight gave him the opportunity to hack the lottery system without being found out, he said.
His magic software code was used for nearly a decade, allowing him to rig drawings for games played on three dates each year: May 27, November 23 and December 29.
But he made a miscalculation that would bring his ingenious scheme crashing down: he bought a winning ticket himself.
Gaming geek Eddie from Texas wrote a computer code which allowed him to predict the winning numbers in particular lottery games
Footage shows him making the purchase at a Des Moines convenience store about 10 miles from the Multi-State Lottery Association offices.
He then told his best friend he could claim the ticket if he wanted, so long as he didn’t wait until the last minute to do it because that is when scrutiny is greatest.
But the friend ignored his advice, devising an intricate plan to claim the prize anonymously less than two hours before the deadline on December 29, 2011.
Staking a claim to the third largest prize in Hot Lotto’s history of $16.5 million at the 11th hour captured the public’s attention as officials publicized the unclaimed ticket.
It took investigators about three years to connect Tipton to the Hot Lotto rigging.
He, his brother Tommy and the friend he employed to pick up the winning ticket all faced charges related to the fraud.
The friend pleaded guilty to a felony charge of being party to a computer crime.
He was handed six months of home confinement in Texas and ordered to pay $409,000 in restitution – and agreed to testify against the brothers.
They admitted their scheme and agreed to repay $2.2 million in restitution.
Tommy was jailed for 75 days while Eddie was sentenced to up to 25 years behind bars.