News / World

Jackpot rigging scandal grows in scope as trials near

DES MOINES, Iowa — A prosecutor says two brothers accused of conspiring to fix lottery games in five states had rigged another drawing for which they claimed a jackpot and planted software on additional computers that would have enabled them to fix more games if they hadn't been caught.

Trials are scheduled in Iowa early next year for Eddie Tipton, a former lottery computer technology official, and his brother Tommy Tipton, a former deputy sheriff and justice of the peace in Texas. They'll be tried separately on a charge of ongoing criminal conduct. Eddie Tipton, who was previously convicted of a separate lottery fraud, faces an additional charge of money laundering.

The trial for Tommy Tipton, 52, is scheduled for Jan. 23 and the trial for Eddie Tipton, 53, is set for Feb. 13.

A third man charged in the conspiracy, Texas businessman Robert Clark Rhodes II, has reached a plea agreement and is expected to testify against the Tipton brothers. Rhodes is a long-time friend of Eddie Tipton.

Prosecutors allege Eddie Tipton took advantage of a false random number generating program he designed and placed in lottery computers that allowed him to predict winning numbers on specific days of the year.

Tipton's job at the Urbandale, Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association was to write software designed to randomly pick numbers for lottery computers used for various games by 37 state and territorial lotteries.

In documents filed Monday, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Rob Sand revealed for the first time that the random number generating program allegedly used in the scheme was found on an Indiana lottery computer and another at the MUSL headquarters in Iowa. A computer expert will testify that the software had not been activated and no additional lottery games in the states are believed to have been compromised.

But, the program installed on the two computers as recently as August 2013 shows "the intention to continue lottery fixing into the indefinite future," Sand wrote in court documents filed in Tommy Tipton's case.

Sand alleges the conspiracy netted more than $2 million in winnings from two 2005 Colorado lottery tickets, a 2007 Wisconsin MegaBucks ticket, two 2010 Kansas 2by2 tickets and a 2011 Oklahoma Hot Lotto ticket.

Previously only one Colorado ticket had been disclosed but court documents filed in Tommy Tipton's case allege a second Colorado ticket was involved in the game-fixing scheme.

Tipton won the two lottery prizes in Colorado and one in Oklahoma. He convinced friends to cash the tickets for him to remain anonymous.

His attorney, Mark Weinhardt, filed a motion to dismiss the charge in October, saying the state cannot prove he committed a crime.

"Once one looks beyond the headlines at the substance of the state's allegations against Tommy, it becomes apparent this prosecution is driven by inertia but not by either facts or law," Weinhardt wrote.

Eddie Tipton has pleaded not guilty and his attorney, Dean Stowers, said the state cannot prove software on the computers was illegal.

"The state's recent filings inaccurately characterize the facts and anticipated testimony of various witnesses," he said Tuesday, asserting that he expects a jury to conclude no crime has been committed.

The biggest win would have been a 2010 Iowa Hot Lotto ticket worth $16.5 million, but the jackpot was never paid because Iowa doesn't award jackpots to anonymous ticketholders and it was never revealed who bought it. Sand alleges it was Eddie Tipton, which Tipton denies.

Court documents indicate Rhodes will testify that in 2010 Tipton gave him the ticket and asked him to reach out to acquaintances to cash it in. Rhodes also will say that Eddie told him that he and his brother had won a fixed lottery game in Colorado. Rhodes also will detail how he won a $783,257 jackpot in Wisconsin in 2007 and claimed it under a business name to conceal his identity.

A plea hearing for Rhodes is set for Dec. 7.

Eddie Tipton was fired by MUSL after he was initially charged with fraud in January 2015 related to the 2010 Iowa Hot Lotto ticket. He was convicted last year on two counts of fraud but one was thrown out by a state appeals court in July.

The new charges were filed in October 2015 when investigators found what they believe are connections to Tipton in the other four state jackpots.

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