Evidence of Possible Tampering Delays Hot Lotto Trial

Wednesday April 15th 2015

The trial of a former Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) worker accused of trying to cash a winning Hot Lotto jackpot ticket has been delayed after the prosecution presented evidence that Eddie Tipton may have tampered with the computer necessary for producing the random numbers in a drawing. The former security director for the interstate lottery organization was arrested in January and charged with two counts of fraud following a lengthy state and federal investigation.

The trial was set to begin on Monday, April 13th, but Assistant Iowa Attorney General Robert Sand published a finding last week which proposes that Tipton may have used a flash drive to install a rootkit program on the computer, which is located in a glass “draw” room, is closely monitored by a video camera and is only accessible by five people. Tipton may have entered the room to manually change the time on the computers, which are not connected to the Internet.

When Tipton allegedly accessed the room on November 20th, 2010, MUSL had no ability to screen for malicious programs on its software. The security camera, which normally runs around the clock, only recorded one second of every minute on that same day. Authorities allege that he was later caught on camera in a convenience store buying what turned out to be the winning Hot Lotto ticket for Wednesday, December 29th 2010. As a lottery employee, he would have been forbidden from playing lottery games or claiming prizes.

Some of Tipton’s former coworkers are expected to testify that he had a keen interest in rootkits, which are designed to install quickly and then self-destruct after their task is complete. Tipton’s attorney, Dean Stowers, attempted to bar the prosecution from putting forth their theories on tampering, but the Judge Jeffrey Farrell denied the motion.

The jackpot went unclaimed for almost a year, until New York attorney Crawford Shaw claimed the ticket in December 2011 for what he said was a company based in Belize. Shaw later withdrew his claim after admitting that he could not identify the actual winner. Authorities released the video footage from the convenience store in October 2014 in an attempt to locate and identify the winner, after which a former coworker of Tipton’s recognized him and got in touch.

A blog post written yesterday by Mary Neubauer, the Vice President of External Relations for the Iowa Lottery, emphasized that lottery games are still fair and safe to play. “There will always be someone trying to beat the system,” wrote Neubauer. “The lottery industry has and will continue to update its security procedures as we identify vulnerabilities to protect against them.”

Both the Iowa Lottery and MUSL have increased security and spread out specific duties among more employees. The machines and software used for Hot Lotto drawings was replaced after Tipton was fired in January, and other state lotteries are expected to follow suit.

Tipton’s trial is scheduled to restart on Monday, July 13th. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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