What do massive lottery winnings and bigfoot have in common? Well, apart from being notoriously difficult to capture, nothing. Except their link to Eddie Tipton, that is, the man responsible for the Hot Lotto fraud scandal, the biggest lottery-rigging scam in US history.
In July of this year, Eddie Tipton was released on parole after serving five years of a 25-year sentence. You see, before the FBI investigation and lengthy prison sentence, Eddie was a lottery employee. And after watching winner after winner receive life-changing sums of money, he decided to tip the odds in his favor. All he had to do was rig lottery computers to spit out winning numbers matching those chosen by him … and his friends and family, of course.
The scheme stretches all the way to 2005, with a $4.8 million jackpot. But it didn’t stop there. Eddie Tipton pocketed millions upon millions before law enforcement finally caught up with him.
In total, FBI investigators believe Tipton’s rigged numbers awarded him $24 million from lottery drawings spanning multiple states including Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
So, $24 million is an insane amount of money. But where does bigfoot come into play? Well, to explain that, we have to introduce another character into the story: Eddie’s brother, Tommy Tipton.
A Hunt for Bigfoot, the Perfect Alibi
All his life, Tommy Tipton had an affinity for the strange and unusual. As a child, his grandmother told stories about a mysterious creature that lurked through their farm at night, scaring the animals. This sparked an intense fascination with Bigfoot.
As an adult, Tommy became a sheriff’s deputy and SWAT team member, giving him access to night-vision technology, which only fueled his interest further. Researching the elusive cryptid was no longer enough, he needed to seek out Bigfoot himself.
So, in 2005, Tommy Tipton packed his bags for Colorado, a state rife with Bigfoot sightings. But before he left, his brother had a request. Eddie Tipton had some numbers he wanted Tommy to try in Colorado’s Hot Lotto lottery.
At first, Tommy worried that it would be illegal for him to play, as his brother was an employee of the lottery association. After a meeting with a defense attorney friend, however, he was convinced it was perfectly legal. And it was – except he wasn’t totally honest. Tommy wasn’t just playing. He was playing hundreds of sets of numbers given to him by someone capable of rigging the machines.
A few months later, the FBI was hot on the trail of the Tipton brothers. When they went to interview Tommy Tipton, however, they had to do so in the hospital. Tommy had fallen from a 31-foot tree stand while hunting for Bigfoot and was in critical condition.
After listening to his outlandish story, FBI investigators accepted that Tommy Tipton was merely an overzealous Bigfoot enthusiast, not a criminal mastermind. And it was this wild sequence of events that allowed the Tiptons to carry on with their lottery scheme for another five years, keeping Eddie Tipton out of prison until 2015.