The Bigger is a Scandal, the More Attractive is a Lottery
The lottery is not a new concept by any stretch of imagination. The Ancient Romans were all too fond of this game of chance and still more countries used lotteries as a kind form of taxation or a means to raise funds for town repairs and aiding the poor. Today’s lotteries are more corporate and the winnings bigger, but the majority of lotteries still donates substantial amounts to good causes. This makes lottery scandals all the more scandalous. Lottery scandals range from the petty to the downright criminal, with some having life-sentences as a result.
The Biggest Lottery Scandals We Can’t But Mention
The lottery scandal that puts all others to shame has been dubbed the Triple Six Fix from 1980. Not only did the original masterminds, Nick Perry and the Maragos brothers walk away with $3.5 million, but their story was eternalized on the silver screen in Lucky Numbers starring John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow. Perry was the TV host of the three-ball Philadelphia lottery. They got the mysterious draw of 6, 6, 6 by weighting all the balls that were not 4 or 6, ensuring that the lighter balls stayed on top; a trick that is very hard to detect right off the bat. The scandal was uncovered when a woman, a friend of the Maragos brothers, placed a call from a bar in Philadelphia to WTAE-TV, where Perry hosts the draw. The call was placed in Greek, a language Perry speaks fluently. Perry was sentenced to two years in prison.
A lottery scandal that was less publicized, but more costly than the Triple Six Fix, was the one involving the Milan Lotto between 1995 and 1999. The lotto proceedings seemed to be above board and near-impossible to bypass, but ultimately nine culprits were arrested for pulling off a scam that cost lottery players $174 million. The proceedings had blindfolded children randomly choose silver balls from a spinning drum. Though their methods of cheating ranged from simple to brilliant, they were nonetheless extremely effective. Between those years a number of crooked officials, members of gangs and people rich enough to bribe the right people bribed children to squint through the seemingly effective blindfolds and choose the pre-determined balls either by number or other distinguishing features like a glossy exterior, while still others were frozen or heated and had to be felt for.
The lottery scandal with arguably the worst consequences for the involved person, took place in China in 2007. Taking to account that Zhao Liqun discovered a loophole in the Chinese lottery, he should have been rapped over the knuckles for cheating and been rewarded for allowing them to fix the loophole rather than the life imprisonment he received for his efforts. The loophole was that a small window of five minutes existed after a draw during which a legal and playable ticket could still be played. Perhaps Liqun’s biggest mistake was not discovering the loophole, but using it three times to win more than $4 million. He should have just made do with the original winnings.
Shop Owners and Clerks are Not Far Behind
Something that might happen more often than realized, although it would involve smaller winnings, is shopkeepers or clerks scamming people out of their winning tickets by swapping them with another or declaring the ticket to be worthless and offering to dispose of it. Lorraine Teicht was the victim of such a scam when a store clerk swapped her ticket and claimed her winnings after a few months. What the thief could not possibly have known is that Lorraine was playing her usual numbers on behalf of co-workers at the Toronto Catholic District School Board who became suspicious that their ticket did not win even though they played the winning numbers. The private investigator they hired to look into Lorraine, as the obvious suspect, was good enough to follow the trail to Hafiz Malik, who had stolen the ticket. Malik was taken into custody and the lottery paid out the $8.5 million in prize money to the actual owners of the ticket as well as more than $800,000 in interest. The same happened to a group of construction workers in 2003 who, also, mistakenly, thought that their ticket was worthless. The culprits, the store clerks that had swapped their original winning ticket for a worthless one, were apprehended nearly ten years after the fact and the construction workers were awarded their prize money and the interest they would have accrued. It goes to show that, in the end, crime does not pay.
While many more lottery scandals serve as cautionary tales for would-be thieves and scammers, they also serve as warnings for the honest; never take another person’s word for the value of your ticket and, when in doubt, double check.