Ajackpot of $14.3 million is a lot of money, and it seemed strange that the person holding the winning ticket in Iowa’s Hot Lotto waited almost a year before claiming it. The draw took place in December 2010, but it wasn’t until 2011, just a few hours before the deadline, that an anonymous individual made the winning claim. While lottery winners are entitled to “no publicity,” they still need to identify themselves to the lottery company. The claim was turned down, but it raised suspicion with the authorities and sparked a long criminal investigation.
The lottery company knew where the ticket was purchased: a QuikTrip grocery store in Des Moines. In 2014, the company distributed CCTV footage from the store showing a white man in a hooded sweatshirt buying the ticket. In January 2015, a man named Eddie Tipton was arrested.
There were two interesting things about Eddie Tipton. He was an employee of the Multi-State Lottery Association, and therefore prohibited from playing, but more important, he was also the company’s director of information security. The lottery win was an inside job. Tipton was charged with fraud and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
His method for rigging the lottery was ingenious. Eddie Tipton had rendered the numbers generated by the lottery computer entirely predictable. On three particular days of the year, the numbers drawn were anything but random. It was on one of those days that Tipton made his winning play.
The Iowa Hot Lotto draw was an entirely virtual affair. A random number generator produced numbers with a computer housed in a sealed glass room under constant surveillance. But Tipton, as director of security, had access to it, and via a USB stick had injected his own software into the system. The software was smart enough to pass a security audit and deliver preprogrammed numbers on the appointed dates. During the long criminal investigation, it was discovered that this was not the first time Tipton had won the lottery. It was the fourth.