Tommy Tipton thought he could commit the perfect crime. As a programmer for lottery machines, Tipton was able to rig games in his favor with the help of numerous accomplices. Tipton’s plan may have worked, but his greed would become his own downfall.
It was near Christmas in 2010 when the Iowa State lottery reached a whopping $16.5 million jackpot. Thousands of Iowa residents were banking on winning that cash prize, but two hours before the prize would have expired two lawyers walked into the state lottery office and attempted to collect the winnings on their client’s behalf.
The lottery commission found the interaction unusual and began an investigation. On the back of the winning ticket was the name Crawford Shaw, who signed the ticket on behalf of a company called Hexham Investments Trust. Shaw informs the lottery commission that he is not the party who purchased the winning ticket and told them that the firm he represented was based out of Belize. The lottery commission refused to release the funds until Shaw could produce information about the ticket purchaser. By January 26, 2012, the lottery commission announced that the prize money would be forfeited and that the investigation was being handed over to the Attorney General’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
By the time the Iowa State Lottery Commission launched their investigation, Tipton had already made off with thousands of dollars in five different states and would make thousands more during the length of their investigation. Tipton rigged the machines to produce certain predictable numbers, but only on certain days of the week. Tipton shared these numbers with both his brother, Tommy Tipton, and long time friend Robert Rhodes. The trio would occasionally play these numbers knowing they would win and split the profit three ways.
It was a racket that paid off handsomely with no one the wiser. In 2005, Tipton and crew banked a win in Colorado, then again in Wisconsin in 2007. By the time investigators caught on to Tipton’s game he had hit the Iowa lottery, the Kansas lottery, and the Oklahoma lottery in 2011.
Using the proceeds to build himself a massive home, complete with a movie theater and a gym, Tipton was on top of the world. But all that would come crashing down around him when Iowa investigators spotted Tipton on camera purchasing the $16.5 million winning lottery ticket back in 2010.
Tipton was arrested in 2015 after officially being charged with making off with $2.2 million of lottery prizes. He has been sentenced to serve 25 years in prison, but under Iowa law, he may only serve as little as three to five. In addition to time served, the trio have also been ordered to pay back $3 million in restitution.