We’re sure that the title has gotten your attention, and it should have. Local TV star Nick Perry got (in)famous for a lot more than his performance on TV. In 1980, he became a part of an elaborate plan to rig the lottery. So elaborate and outrageous was it that it would remain in lottery history records forever.
Planning to Rig the Lottery
If you’re wondering how to cheat the lottery, here’s a story you need to get familiar with.
Nick Perry (born Nick Katsafanas) worked as the Daily Number’s announcer at the time on a local TV station. His career started as that of a radio presenter, but eventually, he joined the WDTV team. He changed his TV presenter career several times, working as a weather presenter and the host of a local sports show. Eventually, he joined the team broadcasting live the drawings of the Pennsylvania Lottery.
He was the mastermind behind an elaborate scheme to fraud some serious cash out of the lottery.
Looking for someone to help him execute, Perry shared the concept with business partners – two brothers called Jack and Peter Maragos. Since both of them were in on the idea, Perry also approached Joseph Bock – a Pittsburg lettering expert.
What Bock was tasked to do was pretty simple, yet ingenious. His involvement in the plan involved the creation of weighed ping-pong balls that would act as replicas of the official balls used to draw the lucky digits in The Daily Number. You probably already have some idea where this is heading and how the PA Lottery Daily Numbers got rigged.
A Masterful Falsification
On April 24, Nick Perry was in the TV studio to announce the lucky numbers selected in The Daily Numbers drawing.
Imagine everyone’s surprise when the three daily numbers selected formed a winning combination of 6-6-6. The odds of this happening aren’t too high, but there were at least three people who knew precisely which balls the machine would spit out on that fateful night.
By the time Nick’s scheme involved a lot more people than the Maragos brothers and Bock. He had also included a group of coworkers, church friends, and even a lottery official to get the replicas inside the machine and make sure they were drawn on the exact date Nick needed them to be.
At the time, the winning amount was 1.2 million dollars, which equates to almost 3.7 million dollars today.
There’s a reason why Nick decided to rig the Pennsylvania daily lottery. The Daily Number took a short amount of time to become the most popular game of luck in Pennsylvania. It also ranked as the fifth-largest lottery in America. Depending on the drawing specifics, winnings could quickly soar up to several million dollars.
The Daily Number also operated following a pretty basic principle, which could have been yet another reason why Nick Perry chose the game to complete his fraud scheme.
To participate, a player has to choose a three-digit number ranging from 0-0-0 to 9-9-9. The odds of winning a prize are pretty good, and since only three digits are selected per drawing, rigging this kind of game is a whole lot easier than targeting some of the more significant national lotteries.
At the time, the payout was dependent on the amount wagered. A player who got all three digits correct (and in the right order) would receive 500 dollars for every dollar wagered. Hence, Nick had a pretty good concept of what he needed to invest in the scam to get returns of 500 times the amount.
To execute his scheme, however, Perry needed to overcome a couple of obstacles.
Pennsylvania Lottery had strict security protocols at the time. The machines and the balls were locked in a storage room when not in use. Two keys were needed to open the room, and one of those belonged to the TV station while the other – was to the state lottery bureau. All of the balls were examined routinely at an independent laboratory to make sure they were of the same weight and size.
Perry took a lot of time to discover the gaps in the system and make good use of those.
The Plan Comes to Fruition
The Nick Perry lottery scam involved a lot of preliminary planning and work. To rig the PA lottery numbers, Perry also recruited a large group of aides.
One of the most critical elements involved befriending Edward Plevel – a lottery security officer. He was the one entrusted with the security of the drawing machines and the Pennsylvania Lottery number balls.
In time, Perry “tested the waters” to find out whether Plevel would be inclined to participate in the scheme. Plevel quickly got intrigued and promised to give Nick Perry the access needed to the drawing machines.
Next, Perry got Bock involved. He provided 30 ping-pong balls and 12 syringes, asking Bock to make all balls that weren’t a four or a six more massive. The substance that gave them the best results was latex paint injected inside the balls. According to Perry’s plan, the lighter fours and sixes would rise to the top, resulting in only eight possible numerical combinations – 444, 446, 464, 466, 644, 646, 664, and the infamous 666.
Once the replicas were created, and the fake balls replaced the official ones, Nick Perry was left with simply buying tickets, placing his bet, and waiting for the results.
Since Perry was involved with Pennsylvania Lottery, he didn’t buy the tickets himself. Instead, he got his church friends involved. The group assembled 20,000 dollars in cash and acquired the needed number of lottery tickets to make sure the jackpot would fall.
The Scam Unravels
It seemed that everything was planned to perfection. Perry, however, made a few mistakes that helped authorities uncover the scam.
For a start, lottery officials received an anonymous tip about the purchase of a significant number of lottery tickets from one retail agency. The employee servicing clients that day remembered two men and a blond woman coming in, putting a lot of money on the table, and buying tickets that only featured the numbers four and six.
Investigators quickly identified the individuals who bought the tickets. These were the Maragos brothers. They got clearance to review their phone records. That information was crucial to the investigation because it revealed that the men had called someone inside the TV station.
Nick Perry should have used a payphone, but he didn’t think authorities would make the connection.
The phone records implicated Perry. After being questioned, the men who bought the lottery tickets confirmed that they’d been talking to Nick Perry.
Investigators found out that the Maragos brothers hadn’t kept quiet about the scheme. Instead, they shared information with friends and family members. The fact that numerous people knew about the scheme and participated in it through the purchase of tickets is considered one of the reasons why the rigging attempt failed.
A grand jury was assembled to assess everyone’s involvement in the fraud scheme. Plevel was convicted, and he had to spend two years in prison for his involvement. Bock pleaded guilty, and he received a lighter sentence. The two Maragos brothers agreed to cooperate with the authorities. Implicating Perry allowed them to avoid prison time.
As for our mastermind, Nick Perry was convicted on several charges of criminal mischief, criminal conspiracy, rigging a contest, perjury, and theft by deception. On May 20, 1981, he was sentenced to seven years in prison, and he remained on parole until 1989.
After coming out of prison, Perry made a couple of attempts at re-establishing his career. He tried to return to broadcasting, but that endeavor was short-lived. By the time he died in 2003, Perry had never publicly admitted his involvement in the Pennsylvania Lottery fraud scheme.
What’s the lesson here, kids? If you ever plan to cheat the lottery, don’t get a ton of people involved. Some individuals have a massive problem keeping their mouths shut, and the more extensive the scheme is, the faster it’s going to unravel.