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Iowa Computer Programmer Gets 25 Years For Lottery Scam (desmoinesregister.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Des Moines Register: Eddie Tipton, the Iowa brainpower behind a case of multi-state lottery fraud, will spend up to 25 years in prison for rigging "random" drawing jackpots. It's unknown how many years Tipton will actually spend in prison. He could be paroled within three or four years, his attorneys noted. Tipton, 54, was a longtime computer programmer in the Iowa offices of the Multi-State Lottery Association who installed software that allowed him to pick winning numbers in some of the nation's most popular lottery drawings. His scam began to unravel following unsuccessful attempts to anonymously collect a $16.5 million Hot Lotto ticket that was purchased at a Des Moines convenience store in 2010. "I certainly regret," Tipton said. "It's difficult even saying that. With all the people I know behind me that I hurt and I regret it. I'm sorry."
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Iowa Computer Programmer Gets 25 Years For Lottery Scam

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  • At 54, he's someone who didn't like his job.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      At 54, he's someone who didn't like his job.

      Heh. Makes you wonder how many dissatisfied people did a one-off, and didn't get caught!

    • Wow out at 79 if he does all his time, not much life left then
  • by Anonymous Coward

    He should be ashamed for scamming stupid people out of their money...oh wait.

    • I was thinking that too. He scammed a company who makes its business by taxing the weak and stupid. Then a government who taxes them gets pissy because even though they would still get their cut, it might hurt future earnings from their voluntary stupid tax.

      These people glorify gambling in the eyes of children everywhere with billboards and commercials that look more like they're advertising Chuck'e Cheese than a addictive drug with almost zero (by almost zero, I mean zero... it's designed like that) chance
      • Re:What a jerk! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by slew ( 2918 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @02:16AM (#55068325)

        Historically, whenever I've wanted to call someone stupid and embarrass them publicly, I ask them "What's your lotto numbers" and when they respond, I say "I don't know what's worse... that you're the type of person that plays lotto or that you think that by choosing your numbers it will increase your odds"

        Although choosing your numbers won't increase your odds, it can improve the expectation value of your winnings (if you win a shared prize). For example, since many people choose numbers that have to do with dates, by picking random numbers that cannot be dates will decrease your expected loss value of playing the lottery. Doing this exercise once making them your "lotto number" is an efficient way to get this small improvement...

        Anyhow, you can now return to your standard mocking program...

        • by Monoman ( 8745 )

          IIRC you can also avoid playing 1,2,3,4,5,6 because something like 50k people play it each week which really eats into your share.

        • Wouldn't always picking the same numbers also slightly increase your chances of winning, in that you're only dealing with one set of random numbers (the winning numbers) instead of two (your quick-pick numbers and the winning numbers)?
          • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

            No. I think that's mathematically unsound.

            If you want to go on a thought exercise, imagine you're ...

            1) Rolling one die, and always trying to hit a predetermined number.

            2) Rolling two dice, and trying to get them to match.

            The odds will be exactly the same.

            • It makes sense, but my stupid human brain is trying to make me believe that using the same numbers is a better idea still. I can't wrap my mind around two moving targets having equal odds as one moving target and one stationary target. Can anybody give me some kinda ELI5 on this?
              • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

                Look, you'll believe it better if you do it yourself. Just type it out in Excel. With cut and paste it's about 8 seconds of work. You'll see 36 combinations with two dice, of which 6 are hits and 30 are not. 6/36 = 1/6, which is the same thing as a static die.

                Basically, the idea that there are "two moving targets" is wrong. There's a target. It doesn't matter if the target is moving or not, because the odds of any of the targets is the same. It doesn't matter if you always pick 6, always pick 1, or have som

                • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

                  And if you still don't believe that, dumb it down further to heads and tails.

                  Do you really think that you're more likely to win if you always pick tails, than if you flip two coins and see if they match? It's 50% either way.

                  • Oh shit. This one hammered it home. "But if I always pick tails, I have a better chance of winning. Wait, I also have a better chance of losing." Suddenly, the dim lightbulb got a bit brighter. Thanks!
              • I can't wrap my mind around two moving targets having equal odds as one moving target and one stationary target.

                Imagine that instead of rolling the two (six-sided) dice together you roll them one at a time. Same result, right? The timing shouldn't make any difference. When you roll the first die any result will serve, so the probability of success is 100% and the problem can be simplified to the single-die case: you're trying to match a fixed number, which happens to be the result of the first roll. In the end it doesn't matter how the first value is selected. It wouldn't even make a difference if one die was loaded,

          • by torkus ( 1133985 )

            No.

            Each roll of the dice is completely independent. The odds of getting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 are exactly the same on any given day - even if they come in yesterday. Equally, each possibility is equally possible. It doesn't matter at all what you pick... ...except for commonly played numbers. If one of those do come in, you split the jackpot with many other people.

          • by johnw ( 3725 )

            Wouldn't always picking the same numbers also slightly increase your chances of winning

            No

        • by houghi ( 78078 )

          It does not increase your odds. It reduces you winnings if those odds are met.
          Say that a payout is 80c with head an tails. You play for 50 cents, That mean if I play head and it is tail I lose 50c. If I win, I get 80c.

          Now if we BOTH play the same, payout is still 80c, so we get 40c each. "But there are many people playing so they would still pay out 80c"
          This was just an example. In Lotery they set a percentage of winning the first rang, then go down. So instead of winning 100MM, they only get 50MM.

      • You make a good point. The Pennsylvania Lottery has a cute puppet mascot, Gus, the "Second Most Famous Groundhog in Pennsylvania." He even has his own catchphrase, "keep on scratchin'". If he were working for a tobacco company, the lawsuits would have started flying immediately.
        • You know what? I'm stupid! The state "fixed" this like the "Bobs" in Office Space. If you're under 18, if you win your ticket is void and you can't collect your prize. Of course, you don't get your ticket money back.

          They fixed the glitch!

  • by galabar ( 518411 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @06:27PM (#55066897)
    He did it with a computer. So, he should be found innocent!!! ...or something...
    • by galabar ( 518411 )
      There have been cases where people get less time for manslaughter, armed robbery, rape, and murder! Innocent I say!!!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The slashdot response you are making fun of is driven by the strange quirk of US law that often committing an offense with a computer will be much more harshly punished than an equivilent offense without.

      As a trivial example, downloading a song from a p2p network may be punished with up to five years imprisonment under the NET act - substantially longer than walking into the store and shoplifting the CD.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I wouldn't say that, but 25 years for rigging a lottery, when rape has been known to get a six month sentence and an apparently tearful statement from a judge upset about the damage he's doing to the rapist's life, seems... excessive. Even if he "might" be released after four years on parole it still seems ludicrously high.

      I get that white collar crimes are often underrated, but did this hacker actually ruin anyone's life? He didn't steal people's homes, he didn't wipe out anyone's life savings, hell he

  • His big mistake (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @06:43PM (#55066953) Homepage

    (Outside of deciding the break the law in the first place, of course)

    ... was going back for more. If you're going to rig a lottery, rig just one lottery, one whose prize will be big enough so you don't have to go back for more later. Then delete all traces of your hackery and never do anything illegal again. Otherwise a pattern starts to develop, leading to you getting caught.

    • My big mistake was to mine reddcoins instead of mooncoins.

      Uh, wait...

    • don't go for the big prize keep it small under X that can be paid out by the local lotto store is unlike to rise a flag even more so then there like 1000's of them in a urban area. At least 30+ within 4 miles.

      The big prizes lead to audits

      • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @07:38PM (#55067169) Homepage Journal

        That's was my reaction. Take out just enough, in cash, that with your probably meager pay you're doing pretty well for yourself. Then I noticed where he's from: Iowa. If you lived in New York City you could cash a couple dozen lottery tickets a week an never visit the same lottery agent twice, but if you lived in Cedar Rapids you'd get noticed eventually.

        Still, trying to take out over a million bucks is crazy. In most states you can't take a large lottery prize anonymously, which he should have known.
         

        • by MTEK ( 2826397 )

          In most states you can't take a large lottery prize anonymously, which he should have known.

          True, but I believe there are tricks around that. A competent lawyer can create a trust and the trustee collects and manages the winnings on your behalf.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Was he actually legally allowed to play the games to begin with? I would think not, if you work for the company/agency in charge of the games.

      You see this a lot for contests were employees that work for the company cannot take part, or casinos which usually don't allow their workers to play games at the casinos they work for.

      • Okay, good point. Related, how does this not get audited and caught before it gets implemented? Shouldn't there be more checks than one guy could bypass?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't know who he thinks he is. Only CEOs of mega corps and politicians can get away with robbing the system. Not peons like him!

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      ... was going back for more. If you're going to rig a lottery, rig just one lottery, one whose prize will be big enough so you don't have to go back for more later. Then delete all traces of your hackery and never do anything illegal again. Otherwise a pattern starts to develop, leading to you getting caught.

      Probably more sensible would be to rig it so you can get small payouts whenever you want. Most folks wouldn't consider that horribly suspicious, and if someone catches you winning $1,000 twice, you can just claim you play a lot and are lucky. You can even get other people (a different person each time) to go pick up your winnings, with a reasonable expectation they won't run off with it or turn you in. Your only real worry would be an IRS audit.

      However, NOBODY is going to look at a former lottery program

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @06:56PM (#55067015)

    the ball based ones are harder to rig and easier to test for loaded balls. Not some software with an RGN that can be hacked or worked out due to it being buggy.

    • you only get to hear about the ones they discover though. Maybe the ball tampering they detect isn't the first occurrence
      • by Xenna ( 37238 )

        Ingenious of you to randomly shuffle the letters so that only crypto-experts like me know what you're talking about!

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      You don't rig the drawing. You find a way to insert a record of the winning number being sold after the drawing. You get some blank lottery ticket paper and print yourself that winning ticket.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      the ball based ones are harder to rig and easier to test for loaded balls.

      The balls can be manipulated in a lot more ways than loading them. Imperfect roundness, surface tension, expandability with temperature changes, vibration when exposed to ultrasounds - there are so many ways that are very hard to detect that may skew the odds of some balls being picked more often than others.

      But you still have a computer that has all the sold tickets registered, at least with a checksum to prevent forgery, and that's a big fat target. It doesn't help much if the balls are random if the t

      • The balls can be manipulated in a lot more ways than loading them. Imperfect roundness, surface tension, expandability with temperature changes, vibration when exposed to ultrasounds

        More difficult to do discretely. Even if you work in a position where you have access to the drawing machine and the balls, it's a lot more likely that some coworker notices you swapping balls with doctored balls. Not to mention the need to have them manufactured in such a way that they look exactly like the real balls. No off color, off smell, off sound when they bump, etc. And don't think about going to the same manufacturer as the original balls, he'd likely mention the strange order to your employer.

        - there are so many ways that are very hard to detect that may skew the odds of some balls being picked more often than others.

        ...

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          I'd hope they go pretty far to prevent that from happening.

          1) Balls are cheap, so you keep a dozen sets of them, split into two pools, the use pool and the hold pool. A die is rolled to choose the set of balls used in the drawing. After the drawing, the die is rolled again and a hold pool box is put into the use pool and the recently used box of balls goes into the hold pool. This makes sure nobody knows which balls will get used and no way to keep a single set of balls in use consistently.

          2) Balls are

          • by arth1 ( 260657 )

            1) Balls are cheap, so you keep a dozen sets of them, split into two pools, the use pool and the hold pool. A die is rolled to choose the set of balls used in the drawing. After the drawing, the die is rolled again and a hold pool box is put into the use pool and the recently used box of balls goes into the hold pool. This makes sure nobody knows which balls will get used and no way to keep a single set of balls in use consistently.

            It's still a problem if the balls all come from the same manufacturer.
            And, even if you manage to keep different sets, some of which are not bad, the bad ones are going to be used every now and then. That's enough to skew the results in the long run.

        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          More difficult to do discretely. Even if you work in a position where you have access to the drawing machine and the balls, it's a lot more likely that some coworker notices you swapping balls with doctored balls.

          Exploits like these are more likely to happen at the manufacturing side. (Just like with slot machines and voting machines, but I repeat myself.)

          ... and this will show up on some simple statistical analysis.

          There aren't enough drawings performed for a skew to be statistically significant. That, say, the number 8 is picked twice as often as the number 17 in 100 drawings is not in itself alarming. It would be more alarming if the distribution was too uniform.

  • Two things (Score:5, Interesting)

    by quonset ( 4839537 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @07:49PM (#55067217)

    1) This is why the names of lottery winners are made public. There may be an exception or two, but the vast majority of states require the person's name to be made known.

    2) In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for employees of the Lottery Commission, and their immediate families, to play any lottery games, even the small(er) daily drawings and scratch off tickets.

    Sure, he could have given the big prize to someone else to collect, but then he'd either have to split it or risk the person keeping it all because he couldn't say anything.

    • 2) In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for employees of the Lottery Commission, and their immediate families, to play any lottery games, even the small(er) daily drawings and scratch off tickets.

      That sounds like an unconstitutional law there. Prohibiting an employee is one thing, but prohibiting other people, especially adults, is quite another. Does that include parents or adult children? It wasn't their choice for the employee to take that job, and has no bearing on them.

      • by Rolgar ( 556636 )

        I have a cousin who is a manager of some sort in the Kansas lottery system. Her mom told me that she and her husband are not allowed to play lottery games due to their relationship to her.

        It makes sense. If they win a big lottery, how can you guarantee that the employee didn't have a conflict of interest where they rigged a game, her parents win a lottery, and they share the money with her either now, or later if she gets any inheritance?

        • You don't, but that's not the problem. What happens if her husband decides to buy a ticket anyway? Are they going to throw him in jail? That's my problem here.

      • by Etcetera ( 14711 )

        You've got it backwards.

        It's: You are prohibited from playing the lottery if you have a family member who works for them.

        And this is a pretty long-running type of condition that's used in all sorts of situations. I'm sure it's been tested in courts. Most family members (and persons living in the same househod -- i.e., roommates) of employees of a radio station or any affiliated or partnered company aren't able to take part in radio promotions or contests either.

        When you don't have a prohibition like this, i

        • I don't buy it, sorry.

          What is McDonald's or a radio station going to do if a family member ignores this and plays anyway? Simple: they do nothing unless they win. Then if they do win, the company simply rejects them, and moves to the runner-up. The radio station or McDonald's do NOT have the power to throw someone in jail for ignoring their rule. These are not laws, they're rules.

          According to the prior poster, this thing about the lottery is a *law*; he specifically said it was *illegal* for family memb

    • or risk the person keeping it all because he couldn't say anything.

      He couldn't threaten to report the other guy, but he could threaten to commit crimes against him.

      The other guy could do the same in return, but would he really want to go down that path, when there is $16M to share.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Two other things:
      1) In Belgium names will not be known, unless they put it out themselves
      2) The lottery is PROUD that their people can play, if they so like, because they KNOW how secure it is and not possible to crack.

      If you do not allow some people to play, you say that the system is hackable and thus not to be trusted. It would be the same as if people who wrote gpg or pgp would not be able to use it, because they could hack it.

      So the 2 points you give prove that it is not secure. At that moment you are

  • What he regrets is they have caught him. Why do so many miscreants even bother to say that they regret what they have done, when it is obvious that what they regret is getting caught?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Probably because if he doesn't state it, then it reflects badly upon his parole hearings. They're real big on making sure you regret your actions, so it's best to fake it if you don't.

    • But they do regret what they've done. They regret that they haven't done it better, right?
  • by FunkSoulBrother ( 140893 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @08:05PM (#55067277)

    I thought this is why they have the video of people pulling the ping pong balls out of hoppers. I know at least Powerball (which is a MUSL lottery, same as where this guy worked), operates that way. It could still be scammed, but it requires physical access to tamper with the balls.

    If a computer is picking the numbers it seems like a conflict of interest since the list of known printed tickets could also be interfaced with the computer.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      The ball picking is mostly not done as if it is a bingo. That is, they do not put their hands in the big bowl. At least not the ones I have seen. The fact that they pick it up and show it is pure for entertainment.

      There are some lotteries where they pick a ball, open it and then show the name/number. There it COULD be in theory be possible. In reality? Not so much. What they do afterwards is verify that the numbers that where not picked are still in there.

      The only reason this was possible is the identical r

    • I worked in the Iowa gambling industry for a bit.

      Where I worked, the slots were all digital bingo. At one point they managed to convince a judge or regulator or someone that digital bingo that picked numbers with a computer was legit. And then they convinced someone that putting a bit of a facade in front of the game of bingo was legit. So every time you pull the lever on a slot machine in Iowa, it plays a quick game of bingo and if you win that, the three slots align on what your bingo-winnings resulted

      • Commentary on the gambling industry aside, that doesn't seem that shady, at least from a fair game perspective, just like an end around for a lawmaker who said 'bingo is fine' but was deathly afraid of slot machines. It sounds about the same as how they play craps (with perfect 1-in-6 odds per deck) with cards instead of dice in California because some lawmaker freaked out about dice but cards are OK.

        So long as your bingo-slot-machine plays a fair game of bingo (fair as can be achieved with a computer'

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Simple solution. Hire somebody to cash the ticket. Both parties get proof that they were conspiring to defraud the lotto, so if one screws the other, they have leverage to tank the whole thing and go to jail. This works provided both are about equally prepared to go to jail - so pick another fat 54-year-old. How old is creimer?

  • I read the article. Looks to me like he is getting off light. May only spend 4 years in jail. Only has to return 3 million. How much did he and his companions steal? Story gets vague at that point. There is probably enough to go around to let him off early don't you think? I only believe that you should believe half of what you hear and none of what you see..
  • In a way I don't blame him; how did they let it come to the point that one person was able to game the system? Why didn't they have procedures in place to stop this? Or maybe why didn't they hold people who weren't directly involved accountable for not checking what this guy was doing? Easy to say in hindsight true but this wasn't on par with rigging a community raffle, there was MILLIONS of dollars involved.

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