Iowa Lottery Players Demand Refund for Rigged Games

(CN) – An Iowa man is demanding a refund of the money he spent playing a Hot Lotto game rigged by a former lottery employee who altered the game’s software to pick predetermined numbers for a $16.5 million jackpot.

Dale Culler filed a class action on Tuesday in Polk County, Iowa, against the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs lottery games in 37 states, including Iowa.

The former employee, Eddie Tipton, worked for the Multi-State Lottery Association as the information security director responsible for the software that generates random numbers for lottery games.

As an employee of the association, Tipton was barred from playing the lottery. But according to a multiple criminal complaints filed against him, he planted a modified software code in the random number generator that produced a predictable set of winning numbers when certain conditions were met.

He used his insider knowledge to win a $569,000 Colorado jackpot, a ticket cashed by his brother, and a $783,257.72 jackpot in Wisconsin, a ticket cashed by his friend Robert Rhodes.

But winning twice – and getting away with it – wasn’t enough for Tipton.

On December 29, 2010, Tipton himself purchased a winning ticket for Iowa’s Hot Lotto jackpot worth $16.5 million.

He tried to find a third party to redeem the Iowa ticket, but two men were turned away because they did not look like the man shown in a surveillance video of the purchase.

Four years later, the state released the video to the public in hopes of identifying the purchaser. Another lottery association employee recognized Tipton as the buyer.

Iowa charged Tipton with two felonies: passing or attempting to redeem a lottery ticket with the specific intent to defraud, and tampering with lottery equipment with the intent to influence winnings.

Surveillance footage presented at trial showed Tipton entering the “draw room,” which housed the two number-generating computers, one month before the winning numbers were drawn, allegedly to update the dates on the computers. The next month, both computers were wiped, according to court records.

A jury convicted Tipton on both charges in early 2015, but an appeals court reversed the conviction on the charge of attempting to redeem the lottery ticket as barred by the three-year statute of limitations.

The $16 million jackpot has never been redeemed, and Tipton faces pending criminal charges for his Wisconsin lottery win.

Culler says he bought $45 worth of tickets for the December 29, 2010 Hot Lotto game that Tipton won.

“While I know the odds aren’t great, I never expected that the games were fixed and my chance was zero,” the 53-year-old insurance salesman told the Des Moines Register.

His complaint says, “MUSL owes lottery consumers a duty of care to ensure it conducts legitimate lottery drawings consistent with the published rules of the game, and that the RNGs [random number generators] it supplies to its member Lottery Departments are free from manipulation.

“Likewise, MUSL owes lottery consumers a duty to ensure reasonable and necessary security procedures are in place to prevent the known and identifiable risks of tampering with MUSL’S RNG equipment,” Culler continues.

He claims MUSL should be held liable for negligence and fraud, and lottery players deserve to be refunded the price of the tickets purchased for rigged games.

Culler is represented by Nick Mauro with Crawford & Mauro in Des Moines.

MUSL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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