While two of the fixers in a multi-state lottery rigging have been convicted, the fallout from their scheme continues, this time with a lawsuit against Colorado Lottery.
Filed last week in Denver County District Court by Amir Massihzadeh, the suit claims that Massihzadeh is owed a bigger payout because he shouldn't have had to share a $4.8 million jackpot from 2005 that later proved to be rigged by former Houstonian Eddie Tipton.
Massihzadeh ultimately walked away with roughly $569,000 after taxes.
The years-long scheme began to slowly unravel in 2010 when Eddie Tipton skipped the usual routine of supplying conspirators with the winning numbers in order to buy winning tickets. Instead, Tipton bought a $16.5 million winning Iowa lottery ticket himself. (Lottery guidelines prohibit employees from participating.)
Unfortunately for Tipton, the ticket was difficult to redeem — Iowa lottery officials balked when a Canadian attorney asked to have the prize mailed to him, and again when a New York attorney tried to collect on behalf of a Belize-based trust. As investigators closed in, Rhodes flipped on his friend and cooperated with authorities. (As part of a plea deal, Rhodes pleaded guilty to fraud and computer crime charges out of Iowa and Wisconsin, and was sentenced in August to two years' probation and six months of home confinement, according to the Associated Press.)
The co-conspirators were ultimately revealed to be Tipton's brother, Tommy, a former justice of the peace in rural Flatonia, Texas; and his best friend, Robert Rhodes, a self-described entrepreneur from Sugar Land.
The other two winning tickets from Colorado's 2005 Lotto drawing were purchased by Tommy Tipton and a "newly formed Nevada LLC whose registered agent was also a Texas resident," according to a June announcement by the Colorado Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman.
According to Massihzadeh's lawsuit:
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"Because the two other tickets were procured through the Tiptons’ criminal conspiracy, the claims for two-thirds of the prize based on those tickets are invalid and Mr. Massihzadeh is the only legitimate winner. ...Despite this fact, and even though the Tiptons have agreed to repay the money they received from the Lottery, the Lottery has refused to honor its obligation to Mr. Massihzadeh. The Colorado Lottery’s failure to pay him his full due breached their contract and necessitated this lawsuit."
Tipton, the former security director for the Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association, pleaded guilty in June to rigging multiple lotteries and was sentenced to up to 25 years in prison in August. As part of a plea arrangement, he agreed to repay $2.2 million in restitution to lotteries in Colorado, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Kansas, court records show. Tommy Tipton also pleaded guilty in August and was sentenced to 75 days on a misdemeanor theft charge. He also agreed to repay $804,095 to lotteries in Colorado and Oklahoma.
As part of the brothers' pleas, Colorado authorities agreed not to charge them.
A spokesperson for the Colorado State Lottery Division said she could not comment on pending litigation.