DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A former lottery security official was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for rigging a computerized Hot Lotto game in 2010 in an attempt to win a $14 million jackpot in Iowa.
Eddie Tipton never got any of the money, but a jury convicted him in July on two counts of fraud. The 52-year-old also was accused of trying to get acquaintances to cash the prize for him without revealing his identity.
Prosecutors said Tipton inserted a stealth program into the computer that randomly picked the numbers, then deleted it so it could not be detected. Defense attorneys deny the allegations, saying that prosecutors had insufficient evidence.
Judge Jeffrey Farrell told Tipton during Thursday's sentencing hearing that his violation of trust was the biggest factor in him receiving the maximum sentence on each count.
Farrell noted that Tipton's job was to ensure the lottery wasn't breached and that no one cheated the game.
"This is about as large an invasion of trust as I can possibly imagine. That is something the court considers to be significant in regard to the gravity of this offense," the judge said, adding that a prison sentence was necessary to deter others from considering such crimes.
Tipton, who immediately appealed and remains free on bond, declined to make a statement at the sentencing hearing. He also didn't testify during his trial.
Tipton's attorney, Dean Stowers, argued for probation. He said Tipton was working in Texas and had always been a productive member of society. He also argued that sentencing in financial crimes is often based on financial loss, and there was no economic loss in this case because the Iowa Lottery never paid the prize for the winning Hot Lotto ticket.
Stowers said he was confident the sentence would be overturned.
"We think there was insufficient evidence and that the prosecution was untimely based on the statute of limitations and we're confident the Iowa Supreme Court or the Iowa Court of Appeals will agree with that when they're presented with this whole case," Stowers said after Thursday's hearing.
Tipton, of Norwalk, had been working for the Des Moines-based Multi-State Lottery Association since 2003 and was promoted to information security director in 2013. The nonprofit association is operated by 37 mostly state-run lotteries to oversee picking numbers for various games and other lottery game administrative functions.
As an employee, Tipton was prohibited from playing the lottery in Iowa. He was fired after his January arrest.
Surveillance video from a Des Moines convenience store shows a hooded man buying the winning Hot Lotto ticket in December 2010. The video is fuzzy and the face of the man isn't clear. Several of Tipton's former coworkers and friends testified at trial that the man in the video was Tipton. His sister and two brothers testified it wasn't him.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Rob Sand pushed for prison time, saying Tipton didn't cooperate in the investigation and hasn't taken responsibility for his actions.
Sand noted that Tipton would likely serve less than half the sentence if given time for good behavior and could likely be paroled years before that, even serving as little as 18 months in prison.