How often is it that someone who wins a large lottery prize takes their state to court? We don’t know the exact odds, but we do know it’s rare. But this is happening now, in the United States nearly ten years after Colorado engineer, Amir Massihzadeh, won $4.8 million jackpot he was forced to split three ways with two other lotto players.
What Happened in This Bizarre Drawing?
It turns out the two other lottery players involved in winning the $4.8 million grand prize were linked together in a network of conspirators who tried to rig the lottery drawings in several US states over a decade ago.
The man behind the rigging scheme was Eddie Tipton, a cyber security expert former security director for the Multi-State Lottery Association. Tipton had admitted to authorities that he manipulated the software he created for several state lotteries so that he and his other insiders could correctly predict winning sets of numbers on specific days of the year.
Tipton didn’t just build the software, but the computers used by Colorado and other states to randomly generate sets of numbers for drawings. In 2005, Tipton began to create and secretly install code that allowed him see a predictable formula to select numbers that fell on specific dates.
Tipton’s co-conspirators consisted of his brother and a close friend. Tipton would recognize a pattern, spot the location, and send his brother and friend out to buy tickets with the winning numbers. The scheme went on between 2005 and 2011, for almost seven years before they were caught.
Overall, the three were able to successfully fix several jackpots netting them around $2.61 million across four states. How were they caught? The trio’s scheme unraveled after brainpower Eddie Tipton was exposed buying the winning ticket of a $14 million jackpot in Iowa that was never paid out. This was ultimately their downfall. Rather than go the usual route of supplying his conspirators with the winning numbers, Tipton got cocky and purchased the ticket himself. For those who don’t know, lottery guidelines mandate that lottery employees cannot participate in the lotto games.
Tipton made another mistake by using a Canadian attorney to ask the Iowa lottery officials to send the grand prize through the mail. In addition, Tipton also used a New York attorney to try and collect the winning by trying to have the money collected through a trust fund based in Belize. Obviously, red flags were everywhere.
With this, investigators began to circle the corrupt trio and hit the jackpot after they were able to use Tipton’s friend Robert Rhodes, to cooperate with authorities and flip on Tipton. Robert
Rhodes, an entrepreneur from Sugar Land, Texas, struck a plea deal with investigators and pleaded guilty to fraud and computer crime charges in Iowa and Wisconsin, he was then sentenced to two years of probation and six months of house arrest.
The second accomplice, Tommy Tipton, was a former justice of the peace in Flatonia, Texas. He plead guilty in August and was sentenced to 75 days on misdemeanor theft, and also agreed to pay $804 thousand to the Colorado and Oklahoma lotteries.
In terms of this case and Amir Massihzadeh, the two other winning tickets in question were shown to be purchased by Tommy Tipton and a newly created Nevada LLC which had registered by a Texas resident.
The man behind the scheme, Eddie Tipton, pleaded guilty in June for rigging several lottery games and was eventually sentenced to 25 years in prison after August. As part of the plea bargain, Eddie agreed to pay approximately $2.2 million in restitution to lotter games in Colorado, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
So Who Is Suing the Lottery?
In comes Amir Massihzadeh, who is now suing the Colorado State Lottery at 62 years old, is arguing that the remainder of the $4.8 million should belong to him. Split three ways, Amir walked away with around $800,000. After taxes, he received exactly $568,900. With accounting for about 12 years of interest, Amir is looking to receive around $4 million from the state lotto in what he considers to be a breach of contract.
Because the two other winning tickets were purchased by individuals who had previous knowledge of the winning ticket numbers, Amir is arguing that he entitled to the other two-thirds of the prize winnings and that Tipton and his associates’ wins are invalid.
Amir’s attorney states in the lawsuit that, “Even though the Tiptons have agreed to repay the money they received from the Lottery, the Lottery has refused to honor its obligation to Mr. Massihzadeh”.”
But Amir isn’t the only one seeking a payout for what they consider to be cheated. There are hundreds of thousands of lotto players who purchased tickets on dates where Tipton and his associates were able to predict winning lottery numbers. A vast majority of these players are now seeking class-action lawsuits by arguing that the lotto drawings were not legitimately random.
One man who won a 2011 jackpot in Iowa is now suing the Iowa Lottery after claiming his $14 million jackpot should have been much larger since the jackpot would have rolled over without Tipton’s insider knowledge. But, the first lottery to be fixed by Tipton was the one that Amir participated in, which fell on November 23, 2005 in Colorado.
The court’s counter-claims to these lawsuits may be that because the players used Quick Pick numbers, numbers generated by the secret software installed by Tipton, that they are not entitled to the full prize.
Massihzadeh and others were probably dumbfounded to discover that they won all that money from what has been dubbed by prosecutors the “ultimate 21st century inside job.”
But, what are your thoughts on this lawsuit? Would you do the same, and seek to collect the rest of what you believed to be rightfully yours? Or would you just be happy with the money you had won? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.