Lawyers for a 2005 Colorado lottery winner who unwittingly split the jackpot three ways with mastermind fraudster Eddie Tipton and an associate will argue their client should be paid the full whack at the Colorado Court of Appeals Tuesday, The Denver Post reports.
Boulder resident Amir Massihzadeh was thrilled to win $568,990 14 years ago, but when in 2015 he was interviewed by the FBI as part of what he was told was an investigation into a scheme to rig lotteries, he began to suspect he may have been cheated out of the other two thirds of the jackpot.
Massihzadeh was right. He later learned he had shared the jackpot with Eddie Tipton, the former director of information security at the Multistate Lottery Association (MUSL), who was later sentenced to 25 years in prison after he admitted to rigging at least six draws in five different states for the benefit of himself and a close network of friends and family.
Tipton managed to install a self-destructing hack program into the MUSL random-number generator so that it chose a set of numbers known only to him on three days of the year.
On one of those days, in 2005, Massihzadeh’s numbers came up. Surprise, surprise, so did Tipton’s. The other winner than day was a friend of Tipton’s brother, Tommy.
Massihzadeh was cleared of any possible involvement – he had asked the computer to pick his numbers randomly that day.
The Tiptons were busted in 2010 when they clumsily attempted to obtain a $16.5 million jackpot win via a third-party, leading suspicious lottery officials to examine surveillance footage from the Iowa convenience store where the “winning ticket” had been purchased. To their astonishment it was their IT security guy.
But without the Tipton’s meddling, Massihzadeh believes he would have won a pre-tax jackpot of $4.2 million. He says he was cheated – although without Tipton’s meddling a different set of numbers would have come up, so it’s a thorny one.
Bound by Contract
Colorado lottery officials say they don’t owe him anything because he was bound by a contract he signed when he accepted the original payout.
In February 2018, a Denver District Court judge agreed with the state lottery and dismissed the case. On Tuesday, the appellate court will try to determine exactly what contracts between lottery winners and the state actually mean.
These criminals knew what no one else did: what the potential winning combination of numbers would be. They were not playing a game of chance like all the honest players,” Massihzadeh’s attorneys wrote in their opening brief before the appeals court.
Others will be watching the proceedings with interest. There is currently a pending class-action lawsuit against MUSL in Iowa, representing lottery winners who believe they were defrauded when they participated in draws rigged by the scammers.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in that case are demanding the deposition of Tipton, who has claimed he tried to warn his employers that the system was exposed to vulnerabilities before and while he was committing the fraud.