The man accused of rigging a Hot Lotto jackpot in Iowa admitted in court today that he did write the computer code that allowed him get the numbers for the drawing.
Fifty-four-year-old Eddie Tipton appeared in Polk County District Court to make a plea under an agreement that involves the 2010 Hot Lotto jackpot prize as well as rigged lottery jackpots in Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.
Iowa Assistant Attorney General Rob Sand says the fraud involved around $2.2 million, and the Tiptons have agreed to pay back what they can. “He expects that he’ll be able to pay restitution fully. There are some assets that Eddie Tipton has available,” Sand says,”but as is the case in many financial crimes, the individuals who obtain the money usually spend it thereafter, leaving only margins of it to be recovered later. I think we are in better shape in this case than we are in most cases though.”
Sand took over the prosecution of Tipton three years ago following the retirement of another person in the Attorney General’s office. That included the case against Tipton for the Iowa Hot Lotto jackpot and then the multi-state plea agreement.
“It’s been a very hectic three years throughout that time with a trial in between. And it feels very good to be at a conclusion here, a successful conclusion,” Sand says. The Iowa case in itself had many twists and turns and it got even more convoluted as the efforts moved ahead to get the multi-state settlement. “The level of complication of this prosecution and investigation is bar none,” according to Sand.
He credits the Iowa Lottery with taking the right steps to prevent the Hot Lotto jackpot from being paid out when the lawyer attempting to do so wouldn’t reveal the owner of the ticket. That eventually led to the whole scheme unraveling. “Because the Iowa Lottery demanded those answers. And because they weren’t provided, a criminal investigation ensued,” Sand says. “If it were not for the Iowa Lottery’s vigilance in that, we may not be here today.”
Both Tipton brothers have agreed to tell prosecutors exactly how they managed to pull off the crimes. Sand says that is one of the most important parts of the investigation. “That was one of the biggest reasons that the states were interested in a plead agreement — because it was our only means to require Eddie Tipton and his brother to sit down and detail what it was that they did,” Sand explains. “There is a lot of intelligence there that is going to be valuable for states and lotteries moving forward in terms of their ability to make their systems more effective and to be able to protect them.”
Eddie Tipton worked with his brother Tommy and others to collect the jackpots after he supplied them with the winning numbers. Tommy Tipton pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy to commit theft. Eddie Tipton faces up to 25 years in prison when a sentencing date is set. Tommy Tipton was sentenced to 75 days in jail. Sand says they will ask that Eddie Tipton be sentenced to the maximum of 25 years in prison.
Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich talked about the pending plea after the Lottery Board’s meeting earlier this week. “We hope that it brings to a conclusion a 6 or 7-year…mystery we are glad will be solved,” Rich says. Rich says the plea agreement keeps the case from dragging on in court.
“It’s really nice in these kinds of processes to have an actual conclusion. Often there are appeals and all sorts of things going on, but this plea really helps bring closure to this whole event,” according to Rich. Rich says he is pleased they way everyone worked together to expose the fraud.
It wasn’t just one or two folks who put this all together — it was a team effort,” Rich says. “Everyone had one goal in mind — it was to keep the lottery games fair and honest in Iowa.”