DES MOINES — Yet another charge has been filed against a former Iowa lottery security official convicted of rigging one drawing and accused of fixing two others over five years — this time for felony money laundering.
It’s the latest move by Iowa Attorney General’s Office, which is casting a wide net to see whether other lotteries might be affected.
Just three days earlier, Iowa law enforcement and lottery officials asked for the public’s help in tracking down more potential frauds that could have been committed by Eddie Raymond Tipton, a former information security director at the Urbandale-based Multi-State Lottery Association.
They are asking anyone who claimed a lottery ticket on behalf of another person to report the information to authorities.
With little information being publicly released about how Tipton allegedly orchestrated the rigged drawings, the charges underscore the mystery surrounding the case and how far it might spread.
“Only three times,” said Doug Jacobson, director of Iowa State University’s information assurance center. “I don’t know. That’s what we’ll never know. I’m not sure we’ll ever know the extent of what he’s done.”
Tipton was convicted in July of fraud charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison stemming from an attempt to rig a 2010 Hot Lotto drawing and claim a winning ticket worth $14.3 million.
He returned Friday to Iowa to face a charge of ongoing criminal conduct, with authorities claiming he tampered with machines to help a close friend and brother win a combined $1.3 million from lotteries in Wisconsin and Colorado from draws in 2005 and 2007. The charges could carry a prison sentence of up to 35 years.
The charge alleges that Tipton, 52, manipulated the outcome of a Nov. 23, 2005, Colorado lottery drawing that reportedly won $500,000 for his brother, Tommy Tipton.
A criminal complaint alleges that Tommy Tipton recruited a friend to redeem the ticket for him in exchange for 10% of the winnings. Tipton, who is a justice of the peace in Texas, denied wrongdoing in a brief statement published Monday in the Fayette County Record newspaper.
“On the incident, which was 10 years ago, I did nothing wrong,” he told the newspaper. “It’s unfortunate that there will be some who want to try me in the court of public opinion.”
Tommy Tipton, who has not been criminally charged, did not answer calls from a Des Moines Register reporter on Monday at his personal or office phone.
In 2008, a limited liability corporation controlled by a longtime friend of Tipton’s, Robert Rhodes, was paid $783,257 by the Wisconsin Lottery after Rhodes claimed a winning Megabucks ticket. In both instances, the tickets were so-called “manual play” tickets, which requires winners to pick their numbers.
The machines that generated random numbers were both built by Eddie Tipton and other staff at the lottery association, which provides games to state lotteries nationwide.
Testimony at the trial in July showed that Tipton regularly traveled as part of his job to perform security audits on lottery equipment, a fact that raises suspicions about the scope of potential frauds.
“That’s sort of the scary part of this,” Jacobson said. “There’s all sorts of things he could try to do.”
Authorities have made little details publicly available about how Tipton, who started working at the lottery association in 2003, allegedly perpetuated the scheme over at least a five-year period.
And investigators are still holding back many details that could shed light on the extent of the alleged crimes, citing ongoing investigation in the case.
For instance, a Wisconsin lottery official in a brief email on Monday declined to answer whether Rhodes has been identified as the original purchaser of the winning Megabucks ticket, or whether another person was involved. There was no response to an immediate follow-up email asking for the location of the ticket purchase.
Such information about winning tickets is routinely shared on the lottery’s website, though data doesn’t appear to stretch back to 2007 when the ticket at issue was purchased.
A reporter’s phone message for Wisconsin Lottery Director Mike Edmonds was not returned. In the Colorado case, it’s still unknown whether authorities knew Tommy Tipton’s connection to the 2005 drawing when they paid out $568,990 to his friend. Attempts to reach out to the Colorado Lottery were stymied on Monday by officials being out of the office for the Columbus Day holiday.
Similarly, Iowa Department of Public Safety spokesperson Alex Murphy on Monday said his department would not answer certain questions, like whether the computers that generated the winning numbers in 2005 and 2007 were housed in the lottery association’s Urbandale office, or in Colorado and Wisconsin. A message left at the Urbandale offices of the Multi-State Lottery Association also was not returned.
In an interview Monday, Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich said again that the case is putting a “laser-like focus” on ways that lottery officials nationwide can improve their procedures for ensuring prizes are paid out properly and tickets are secured.
“When you perpetrate crime, you leave trails,” he said. “It may take years, and that’s what happened in this case.”
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