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Ex-lottery worker who rigged winnings gets 25 years in prison (cnn.com)
158 points by WestCoastJustin on Aug 23, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 242 comments

Ok. Do these guys that commit white collar crime not know how a passport works? If you have millions of dollars stashed in bank accounts WHY are you in the US? Why are you buying estates and testing out a new bmwI8 and spilling champagne all over? Why not get on a plane go to Morocco (a country with an extremely complex extradition process)? wtf. Even the guy running silk road was hanging out in SF now lives in a 4x6 concrete cube - instead why not hang out with Edward Snowden in a Russian bar or whatever.

This guy for example the FBI calls just to chat. They can't touch him.


I've also always wondered this. But people seldom run.

I think Snowden had seen enough of the sausage being made to realize that hiding in the USA was impossible, given the security apparatus' capabilities.

Part of it is the psychology of it. The fraud triangle is opportunity, rationalization, and pressure.

Many people have convinced themselves that they're not doing anything wrong, or that they deserve it. If you're not doing something wrong, why flee?

Others get greedy. I had an accounting professor who used to say, "If you're going to steal, steal big and steal once."

Psychology--people will try to remain close to places and people they know. There are many examples such behavior especially during natural disasters when they are commanded or know they should flee but don't.

Given that he defected to Moscow, staying in the US wasn't an option

Snowden didn't defect. He was on his way to Venezuela, which had granted him asylum. The US canceled his passport, stranding him in Russia. Even though the Venezuelan Air Force has an Airbus, flying to Russia non-stop was not feasible--Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, had his plane forced down on the suspicion that Snowden was aboard. Still, if Putin wanted to get Snowden to Venezuela, all he had to do was put him aboard a Russian nuclear submarine. In ten days, Snowden would be in Maiquetia with no risk of interference. As it turns out, Russia is probably a safer place for Snowden than today's Venezuela.

If Venezuela was willing to let him travel there they could have issued him documentation to do so.

He would have had to get there. He was stuck behind customs in a Russian airport and the president's plane had already been grounded looking for him.

Documentation sounds like it would do very little to deter rendition by a nation-state.

Kidnapping from another country followed by torture has only been done by a couple of countries recently. The term 'rendition' sounds much more civilised though, and 'nation-state' makes it sound like a government other than that of the US might do it to Snowden.

It's an ugly, ugly exercise of power.

I have the odd tie in of having lived near an airport in NC where the CIA was operating small jets to conduct those "renditions" (read: kidnappings) overseas during the Bush II years.

The other place in the US that is weird: The base known as "The Farm" right next to Colonial Williamsburg which is neither fish nor fowl--a lot of people and things get moved in and out of the US from there with zero accountability.

We badly need to get the US government back under control because the things done in our names are simply evil.

Please read the post you're responding to again.

The cancellation had no effect on the ability of Venezuela or Russia to permit him to travel.

The part where the plane was forced to land.

Had Snowden been in Evo Morales plane nothing could have been done about it. That plane was extraterratorial.

Sentence four.

Let me spell it out for you: Venezuela and Russia would happily have allowed Snowden to fly, but the US was ready and willing to force down and search any plane that was even suspected of carrying Snowden.

Snowden is just a bargaining chip Russia prefers kept in its own pocket.

Quite possibly, but they never tried to prevent him from flying, so that's irrelevant here.

Crazy that people still believe this stupid lie, easily debunked by 30 seconds on Wikipedia.

Even crazier is that the people who really wanted to string Snowden up by the neck were the conservatives, because they love law enforcement and are willing to give up freedom in order to fight Islamic terrorism. In other words, supporting Big Brother despite ostensibly wanting less government.

Crazier still is that those same people, the ones who were demonizing Snowden for ending up in Russia, are now in love with Assange and Putin because Trump.

"Two things are infinite: the Universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the Universe."

> Even crazier is that the people who really wanted to string Snowden up by the neck were the conservatives

I strongly feel that this had bipartisan support across the aisles. Obama supported it, despite his pledge to protect whistle blowers. Hillary was no different.

It's true that this was bipartisan amongst elected officials, and strangely to me, a number of liberal people in my native DC area that I still talk to. I think there were varying degrees though. Do you think Trump would have let Manning go for example? I'm not sure that even Hillary would have. And yet Obama did, eventually.

Also, there is little doubt in my mind that mutual hate of Hillary brought together WikiLeaks and several previously unlikely allies.

> you think Trump would have let Manning go for example? I'm not sure that even Hillary would have.

Of course not, I'm just trying to dispel the myth that the world is in black and white. You can't just hold the 'other' party accountable. We need to look in the mirror.

Powerthirsty psychopaths of all factions unite against the puppets marching of on theire own.

That is what terrifies me--people who are ostensibly conservative but then are all pro-military and pro-big-government and you find out all they want is some tax break or other stupid consideration that benefits them personally. Democrats are not immune to this behavior, either--I have met few who disfavor big government and think they can somehow control the beast. They can't.

I guess those conservatives who have military backgrounds felt that Snowden betrayed them and put them in greater jeopardy. The problem with that is, it's hard to prove the value of what Snowden did. Harm may well have been done in the small, but at the same time there was great justice in the large. Being a whistleblower was the ethical choice; if you look the other way, you're no better than the prison guards at the concentration camps who weren't full-on members of the Nazi Party.

Snowden leaked a lot about foreign intelligence programs run by the US. That's not whistleblowing, that's espionage. it's naive to think China and Russia helped him pass through without something in exchange.

When a country really wants to get you, there aren't many safe places in the world. The terrorist Carlos got abducted by the French intelligence service. Eichmann by the Israeli services. There are less famous cases (like the Kalinka Bamberski case). What's interesting in that in all of those cases, these illegal means of grabbing the suspect abroad didn't invalidate the case against him and in all of those examples the suspect was then charged and sentenced.

So yeah maybe, but only for some petty crimes.

We're not talking about terrorists or Nazis here. Do you really think we'd be sending Seal Team Six to get some guy who scammed the lottery? He didn't even catch federal charges.

Against a Madoff perhaps, yes. But the point is rather that the FBI probably doesn't need to respect the rules outside of the US.

If you aren't a threat to lives on american soil, there is no amount of financial crime that will earn you extraordinary rendition. It isn't worth the diplomatic relations, nor the risk of life for the people who would be grabbing you.

The FBI don't operate outside the US. It would be the CIA if anyone.

The FBI does operate overseas: https://www.fbi.gov/about/leadership-and-structure/internati...

Here's an article on using the FBI as more or less another branch of special forces: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/insid...

I seem to remember Brandon Webb's book "the red circle" where he relates FBI agents were attached to seal teams to do forensics in theater after operations.

Which is just another example of how government expands its scope and rarely ever contracts.

> But the point is rather that the FBI probably doesn't need to respect the rules outside of the US.

That's not how this works, that's not how any of this works. They don't operate at all outside the US. :)

Say what? The FBI definitely operates outside the US.


Technically, those embassies are still in U.S. jurisdiction, however, I grant you your point as I was unaware they did this.

They investigate crimes overseas all the time. They investigated that situation where three US special forces guys were shot by a Jordanian military police for example.

After requesting and receiving special permission from Jordanian authorities.

There aren't many safe places in the world if you're a terrorist or wanted for other types of violence, but financial crime is practically a national industry in lots of places.

Iran is a pretty safe bet if you are hiding from the West as long as the crimes are not committed against Iranians.



Most people would rather be middle class Americans than rich Iranians.


All barriers are deterrents. Whatever crime you committed, the authorities are going to be equally or less likely to arrest you if doing so is more expensive and more difficult. They'll spend billions or trillions to get Osama Bin Laden but for a lottery scammer they might give up.

I think they don't know when to stop. Fleeing the country would put an end to their criminal career, and they continue to see dollar signs. By the time they realize that the authorities will put a stop to it anyway, it's too late.

The art is to provide a clueless playboy to take the fall, so whoever has also monetary gains can sneak off in the storys background while a exempel is statuated for moral reasons.

> Why not get on a plane go to Morocco (a country with an extremely complex extradition process)?

Why don't people in poor countries just move to better countries? Why do people stay in the rust belt instead of moving to the coast? Why do people on the coast whine about rent instead of moving inland?

Leaving everything you know is hard.

To quote a famous quote

> I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth, then I ask myself the same question.”

Not really a good analogy as the limiting factor in your scenarios is often money

No, it is a valid point.

Take Germany for example: In the neighbouring country Switzerland you can easily earn twice as much and the higher living costs only cancel out a part of the difference. >80% of Germans would have the money to move and would be much better off and still only very few do it (<2%).

Same with all the unemployment in Spain, people could move to e.g. Germany in masses but they don't.

People just don't like change and are not the rational players everyone wants them to be.

I've worked in Switzerland as a consultant and there were Germans all around. A friend of mine makes more money waitressing in Switzerland than I make as a SW engineer in Austria. So I am kind of guilty too ;)

Actually there are quite a lot of young people from Spain & e.g. Romanians that leave their countries. Emigration in Romania is quite a big problem (from 23 million to 20 million people). I guess it depends on your definition of "moving in masses".

> Same with all the unemployment in Spain, people could move to e.g. Germany in masses but they don't.

Did you know? It costs money to move somewhere, and unemployed people have very limited incomes. Stumping up the apartment deposit + bus ticket + float to cover living expenses until first payday might be hundreds of Euros & be completely unreachable.

> People just don't like change

I think people would jump at the opportunity for a well-paid job and are far more rational in their decisions than you give them credit for.

Unless maximising income is not equivalent as behaving rationally, which is always a possibility.

Good luck. It's pretty difficult with the various capital controls in place to get lots of money out of the US without attracting attention.

The Governor of NY was run out of office and nearly prosecuted when some bank compliance officer when transferring a few thousand bucks to a escort service.

> The Governor of NY was run out of office and nearly prosecuted when some bank compliance officer when transferring a few thousand bucks to a escort service.

Spitzer was almost certainly parallel construction.

Yep. I have to say they whole GFC and it aftermath surprised me in how well the hired hands of the big guys play the game.

> Good luck. It's pretty difficult with the various capital controls in place to get lots of money out of the US without attracting attention.

No it isn't, buy Bitcoin, store coin in brain wallet, walk across any border.

Sure, but then you've changed the game into finding a way to purchase that much Bitcoin and also find a way to liquidate that much Bitcoin once you realize that few merchants accept it.

That's a much easier game, it's a 150 billion dollar market that trades a few billion a day; converting millions is nothing. Nor do you need to liquidate it all at once at your destination, you can take your time.

No one's questioning the liquidity of the BC market; getting the money to and from the exchange would be a gigantic hassle. Banks generally have reporting requirements for transactions of a certain size, many countries are more uptight about opening accounts (Know Your Customer laws) due to previous terrorism-related money-laundering operations; as a US citizen, he'd have the burden of reporting his overseas income back to the IRS (failure of which may trigger asset seizure back in the USA, which might be a problem if he bought a house for his parents).

> getting the money to and from the exchange would be a gigantic hassle

No, it's a simple bank transfer. It doesn't matter if that's reported to anyone, transfer to an exchange in your own country and you're not doing anything illegal. And the topic is the difficulty of going around capital controls, not the tax burden of an ex-patriot. Bitcoin makes getting around capital control easy; easy doesn't mean legal. You're refuting things that have nothing to do with the topic being discussed.

> and you're not doing anything illegal

Did you mean to post this in the comments for a different submission? Because I'm pretty sure that laundering money from fraudulent lottery entries… is extremely not legal.

How do you buy millions of dollars worth of bitcoin? Paypal?

On a bitcoin exchange like Coinbase. Plenty of people have millions of dollars of Bitcoin. 10 million USD is about 2500 bitcoins, that'd barely move the market if purchased all at once, not at all if spread out over a day or two. 24 hour trading volume is about 3 billion USD.

doesn't coinbase require a link to a bank account? so you'd need to have millions in your bank account to buy the BTC.

The topic is moving capital across borders, that presumes you already have said capital and naturally yes that would be in a bank. Buying millions in bitcoin is not illegal, it will not be difficult, it doesn't matter if your bank reports the money transfers.

Maybe because they like living in the US and like having that money there? I doubt that a want to completely changing one's culture is what drives people to commit monetary fraud.

Living in a 4x6 concrete cube would be much more of culture shock for me.

He didn't do it assuming he'd get caught.

Interesting how people here on HN tend to bash criminals because of their stupidity instead of focusing on their poor ethics. How society has changed.

Sometimes it seems that the idea that "It's not a crime unless you get caught" has become mainstream. It doesn't seem to be a very solid foundation for a society.

Hopefully this is just harmless fun discussing hypotheticals.

This is just automatic engaging of a problem-solving mindset, I believe.

If there is a wide consensus on "poor ethics" here on HN, why comment?

If the exploit looks super obvious and you're not hearing about people using it that's a good indication that people are using it and smart enough to keep their mouths shut.

I'll take the simple answer here, that you're giving these folks too much credit wrt to knowing how "the system" works.

Its not just with fraud, its with anything that comes for free. Sometimes also called luck.

The general idea is if you are lucky, you will be lucky enough all life. And the party will never end.

Its only when it stops you realize that you could have saved up and moved on long back.

You can't have the whole world.

ironically John Macafee did the opposite and ran back to the US as a #1murder suspect and rapist : http://www.businessinsider.com/john-mcafee-documentary-gring...

2 mil. really isn't all that much. He would blow it quite fast if he lived how you described.

Yeah you could live on that comfortably for the rest of your life, but not extravagantly.

Cynic in me would point out that for most people in the US does not exist in any way.

> "It's difficult even saying that with all the people that I know behind me that I hurt."

It is interesting to think about who he considers he hurt. The potential winners who relied on lottery winning to secure a future for their families? The lottery workers? He is a criminal surely, but isn't the whole lottery system a tax on lack of education and it just gives false hope to people and encourages gambling. He reduced faith in it somehow being a random lottery so I guess he probably hurt the state income bottom line. At least in some states they claim to use lottery proceeding to improve math education - not sure how truthful that is.

While I support the idea that lottery and gambling is for 'entertainment purposes only', if one never buys into the lottery, they can never obtain the winnings. Buying exactly one ticket per drawing at least places one in the pool of potential winners, despite the odds being rather long. Although the expected value is still minuscule, it's an unquantifiable improvement (since we can't divide by zero).

And before you evoke any comparisons with the probabilities of getting struck by lightning or hit by meteors, none of those will ever pay you a nice chunk of cash.

Investing the same amount of money in a financial device with higher assurances of returns is not a comparable experience, neither psychologically nor practically, even if we callously suppose that such instruments are in fact widely available across all cross-sections of society. Holding back the price of 1 ticket per drawing period from safer investments to gain a shot at a high-payout lottery is simply diversifying your investment portfolio.

> Although the expected value is still minuscule, it's an unquantifiable improvement (since we can't divide by zero).

This isn't how it works, because the expected value, in monetary terms, is negative once you factor in the cost of the tickets. Statistically, it is a quantifiable unimprovement.

That said, lots of activities have negative expected monetary value, like going to the movies, or going bowling. And it is theoretically possible that you will find an envelope in the bowling alley parking lot containing a million dollars, but let's not pretend that both bowling and playing the lottery are anything other than entertainment products at the end of the day.

> This isn't how it works, because the expected value, in monetary terms, is negative...

I once heard a statistics professor explaining he played the lottery. His reason? It was fun. Period. He said one may spend $10 on a movie ticket and be entertained for a few hours, but one would end up $10 poorer with 100% certainty. On the other hand when he spent $10 on a lottery ticket he was entertained for days just thinking of the possibility of winning, and he might end up a lot richer, but it was not a necessary condition for him to enjoy the fun it provides.

> On the other hand when he spent $10 on a lottery ticket he was entertained for days just thinking of the possibility of winning

With a slightly better imagination he could save the $10 and daydream for days about a close relative/friend winning the lottery and gifting him a substantial chunk of the money.

That sounds exactly like a smoker “explaining” why they smoke. They claim to enjoy it. In reality, of course, smokers only smoke because it makes them stop feeling the nicotine urge for a short while, i.e. they feel like a normal non-smoker person for a short while.

Likewise, anyone could fantasize about getting a windfall of mountains of money from far likelier events, like an unknown relative willing their fortune to you. Sure, it’s unlikely, but it’s more likely than winning the lottery. You don’t need to play the lottery to do that.

> They claim to enjoy it. In reality, of course, smokers only smoke because it makes them stop feeling the nicotine urge for a short while

Using this model, it's difficult to explain where new smokers come from.

The reason people start to smoke are the same reasons people start to drink coffee, or tea, or beer. Nobody likes any of those things when they first try them, but they choose to acquire the taste, for either social reasons and/or because they want the side effect (caffeine or alcohol). In the case of cigarettes, the social effect has been very strong but is declining, and the wanted side effect is illusory, but as long as people still think that they will get something from nicotine, people will start to smoke, or vape, or chew, or snuff, or whatever form it will take in the future.


In general, you're not on firm ground when someone says "I enjoy X" and you say "no, I can tell what you enjoy better than you can".

> Statistically, it is a quantifiable unimprovement.

What's the probability that someone on SSI will be a millionaire before they die?

What's the probability that someone will become a millionaire by playing the lottery?

Which is a larger probability? It's possible that many people aren't as dumb as we think.

Could I interest you in a bridge?

Probability being on SSI makes you a millionaire: 0%

Probability playing the lottery makes you a millionaire: Very close to 0%.

Probability being on SSI makes you poorer: 0%

Probability playing the lottery makes you poorer: Very close to 100%.

I think the problem people have with the lottery isn't directed at the middle class person buying a lottery ticket here and there. It's more that the whole system is designed to encourage already vulnerable people to risk somewhat significant portions of their weekly take home on the extremely unlikely chance of winning, and then doing this week in and week out. $2/$3 for a Powerball, maybe a state lotto ticket, then a few scratch offs, and ATM fees to get the cash for all this, and poof you've spent $10-$20+, when you're living on less than $300 a week.

I'm not saying don't buy a lottery ticket here and there if you truly get some enjoyment out of it, but the lottery system as it is now seems to encourage borderline gambling addiction behaviors in people who are the least likely to be able to resist them.

Spain in the 19th century tried to avoid that by massively increasing the ticket price (even now, it's still 200€ per full ticket). It didn't work, people just pooled their money and bought "shares" of a ticket.

Ok if the goal is to give people hope, just allocate a fund every 3 months from the state and enter everyone who is reported a tax income less than poverty level in the pool. And there it is, automatic hope and dreams for a while for all that state's poor.

The lottery though is not hurting a middle class programmer who buys a ticket for fun, it is hurting the poor who possibly don't realize how unlikely it for them to win and _time_ and money spend on the lottery might be better used for something else.

It is not unlike the liquor stores and payday loans popping up in more poorer areas of town. From a cold rational point of view one can say "ok, if they rely on the lottery to give them hope, they are just as likely to spend that money on drugs or alcohol" and indeed they might however it doesn't mean the states should encourage that and act in a predatory manner towards them.

I've recently moved to Chicago and two things I have noticed: what I can only assume are relatively lower income people buying incredible amounts of lottery tickets, expensive scratch offs at that. And chicken wing bones one the sidewalks.

It is a negative expected value. You can go below zero. There is no situation where buying lottery tickets is a good way to diversify your portfolio

Well, there are some situations in which it's a good investment. http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/08/07/how-mit-students-scammed...

Nah, depending on jackpot size, Mega Millions at least can reach a +ev state.


The expected return is not minuscule.

It's a reasonably sized negative number.

Actually, given the probability of winning, each lottery ticket has a negative value, so... yeah, there's no way it isn't a waste of money. "You gotta be in it to win it" is nonsense and is exactly what the lottery commission relies on.

> a tax on lack of education

I hear this a lot, but I think people know what a longshot is.

Is this so much more stupid than throwing your money away on useless consumer junk?

Most the people I see buying lottery tickets are in no position to throw money away on anything.

Ehh. A $1/week expense which buys you hope and dreams for a week isn't that bad in the grand scheme of things. It's certainly cheaper than cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs to temporarily take the stress out of the fact that you're in a long-term shitty situation with little way out of it.

This concept that the poor should only ever work, eat, and sleep, and any attempt to look after their mental health is wasting money, is outright dangerous.

> Ehh. A $1/week expense which buys you hope and dreams for a week isn't that bad in the grand scheme of things

There's a demographic of lottery players that really only are spending $1 a week (or even $1 every few months or whatever), but there is also a large demographic that is regularly buying multiple $20 scratch tickets on a regular basis, which tends to be more of what people are thinking of when they evoke the stereotype of someone who "can't afford" to play the lottery.

I'm not saying that only the rich should be allowed to enjoy myself, but if a friend asked me to get their finances in order and was spending multiple percent of their salary on lottery tickets (which is a real phenomenon), cutting back would be my first suggestion.

The actual solution for the population which spends significant money on scratch cards, of course, is to invest in social care and support for people who are obviously very vulnerable. They'd be vulnerable whether the scratch cards existed or not.

Invest? This is a pitfall that all people are vulnerable to, including the ones who invest.

I'm not for humanity dedicating more resource to social service. But we have to get socially vigilant and strict. Otherwise more people will be susceptible to this vulnerability. Part of that vigilance means shaming people for drugs, gambling, & alcohol, etc.

I can assure you that people are shamed more than enough for their faults. I volunteer with people who come in with the stories of people shaming them for their faults every week.

The issue is that there is fuck-all support for people to overcome their faults - we've become a society in which if you can't get out of your situation on your own, you also can't get help getting out of your situation - because we don't believe that anybody can possibly be in that position. Individualism at its worst. The faults are usually a result of the shitty environment you're in, of course - nobody becomes an alcoholic because they're happy with how their life is going or feel they can do much to change it.

I don't think you understood my post. I mean we, as a society, need to help vulnerable people in our society - we need to invest resources into helping them. We can do that ourselves, we can do that through charity, we can do that through mutual aid, and we can do that through Government policy and services. Broadly speaking, as a society, we choose not to.

> Ehh. A $1/week expense which buys you hope and dreams for a week isn't that bad in the grand scheme of things.

The problem is that poor people aren't just dropping 1 dollar per week. They're spending much more. Some people have a very poor grasp of how bad the odds are and mention that playing the lottery is their way to retirement.

Taking a convenient top link from a Google search (admittedly it references a study from 2008), they mention households earning 13k annually spending 645 (9% of income) on the lottery.


True, there's a population which overspends on lottery tickets. But those people would also be spending their money on other pleasures otherwise - the solution there is increased social care and responsibility for these people, rather than taking the lottery away from the many people who play it responsibly.

Also, that article may be very wrong - at least one other news article which would appear to reference the same study received an update to suggest the total is 2-3%, rather than the 9% originally stated, and I can't find the 9% referenced in the study itself, while the 2-3% does show up.

> But those people would also be spending their money on other pleasures otherwise

That's a pretty tall claim to make. Do you have any sources to back it up? Especially because if these people were putting money into savings instead with proper education it could make a significant path to getting out of poverty.

Experience with primarily being around decidedly working-class people?

If they put it into savings, their mental health would generally go down the drain, which would screw heavily with their ability to turn up for work, which would put them in even worse of a place. I've seen this happen. Note that studies show that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be depressed - many attempt to escape from that feeling of pointlessness and having no future with alcohol, drugs, gambling, television, and so on and so forth.

The overuse of scratch cards is just one possible manifestation of an underlying problem - that these people usually don't have the support they need to get out of their situation. That they're living paycheque-to-paycheque with no end in sight, whether they were to save $20 a week or not. And it turns out giving them the support they need is rather expensive.

Also, proper education is incredibly expensive and inaccessible to many (night classes or long-distance learning need serious dedication and motivation with no guarantee of a job at the end of it - a well-known recipe for something that poor people are generally just not good at), and on top of that, many people just don't have the skills they'd need to succeed in further education.

My opinion? The actual issue is that there's little career progression or practical training available to get an employee from e.g. retail shift worker to somewhere else in the company with a near-guaranteed job at the end of it and full pay the entire time. And there's no reason for businesses to create those pathways so long as they have no responsibility to their employees.

> If they put it into savings, their mental health would generally go down the drain,

Does this not come back to education, though? Putting money away in savings, hopefully to secure a more stable future, should bring some measure of confidence/happiness.

This sort of basic financial sense does not require an expensive education. At least I don't think it does, maybe I am being naive.

I do take your last point. I think society in general sees retail and the like as stop-gap work or jobs for teens. The reality is very different and opportunities to improve become more and more limited with age and a lack of education.

> Putting money away in savings, hopefully to secure a more stable future, should bring some measure of confidence/happiness.

Only if you actually believe that saving money secures a more stable future. In practice, it really doesn't - you're still working at the same shitty job with no prospects, just with nothing to distract you from the reality of what that means, and maybe if you manage to save enough over half a year you can survive a couple of weeks between jobs. Woop.

It doesn't actually provide stability in the sense that makes people feel happy - a job in which it's unlikely you'll get fired without warning in the first place does that. Hopping jobs, hopping rented accommodation, hopping shitty transport that you can't really depend on but you need to depend on for a living... that's the stressor. Many people with professional jobs, stable housing, and health insurance, but no savings to speak of are quite happy.

You're never going to save enough to actually do anything with it within five years on a low-income job, no matter how much you cut back - doubly so if you have any debt at all - and there's studies that show that planning for the future where that future is not guaranteed is not a strength of many people on low incomes.

Sigh. I suppose this is true. I say "hopefully" even with a secure job and ability to put money away...

From the linked article:

> ... poor households, with annual take-home incomes under $13,000, on average, spend $645 a year on lottery tickets, which comes to about 9% of their yearly income..

  $ echo 13000*.09|bc
$645 is ~5% of 13k.

Note the word "under."

Dont forget tax!


$ echo "(93250.1)+(13000-9325)0.15"|bc

gives tax payments on 13k USD to IRS 1483.75

9% of take home pay is

$ echo "(13000-((93250.1)+(13000-9325)0.15))*0.09"|bc 1035

Then there is the additional sales tax at point of sale, which can further reduce buying power.

Yes its 135 than your projection, but that might be food for the week.

> they mention households earning 13k annually spending 645 (9% of income) on the lottery

It sounds like you're claiming that 645 is 9% of 13,000?

It could be 9% of their after-tax income, if you believed that households earning $13,000 paid 50% of it in taxes.

I don't think there's anyone out there that has played the lottery that isn't acutely aware of how poor the odds are. As some people above have mentioned, they're not buying a ticket to riches, they're buying daydreams and aspirations to let them forget about their financial situation.

They're not bringing up the lottery as their way to retirement as an actual financial plan. It's gallows humor.

Per capita spending on lotteries in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods is about ~$600 per year, of which the state of Illinois pays back about ~$100 to advertising agencies to continue to immiserate its own poor people, because if they don't constantly market the games sales go down.

Since the poor people are unlikely to work on ad companies or own stock in them, this is literally a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

I have no issue with state run lotteries, what I have a major issue with is their promotion. By all means people should be able to spend their money as they wish, but should the state be involved in promoting them spending their money in such a regressive (tax) way?

My guess is that when you are that much poor, you don't just buy the chance of winning, but also a little amount of hope that helps to get through the dull (or even awful) life. Even if you don't win you get something back for that money.

Is hope of buying a bunch of things you will never be able to afford really a good thing?

We've built an entire society on the notion that you should aspire to buy a bunch of things you'll never be able to afford. See also: luxury car repossession rates

Even homeless people generally have some disposable income. They simply have different priorities, which does not make either of you correct.

I once read the lottery is a way of buying hope.

I never really understood this argument. I mean, you can daydream for free about Warren Buffet choosing you at random to give $300 million to, or inheriting a distant relatives belongings and finding a Pollock in there.

Maybe with the lottery its easier for people to deceive themselves about the actual odds?

I imagine the odds of winning the lottery, as low as they are, are significantly higher than Buffet giving you $300M.

It's not deceiving yourself to recognize that miniscule odds are greater than zero.

Not sure why you think it would be 0%; people have stumbled across $15 million Pollock paintings by accident[1]. William Durkin happened to be at the right place at the right time to save Howard Hughe's life, and it looks like he was at least offered money afterwards[2]. There's plenty of other stories where something extremely unlikely happens and someone gets rich.

The likelihood of winning the Powerball is something like 0.000000005%. Not sure what the odds are of these other unlikely events, but even if they're less likely - you really think someone is able to daydream about a 0.000000005% chance but not a 0.000000000005% chance?

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/12/us/lost-jackson-pollock-painti... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Hughes#Near-fatal_crash...

The kind of fantasy you're describing isn't an equivalent good. People buying lotto tickets are fantasizing, amongst other things, on not being dependent on the largesse of others.

I play every once in awhile, when the jackpot gets to be large enough they start talking about it on TV. The $10 or $20 I spend is well worth daydreaming about the things I would if I won.

Buy index funds and live off the proceeds?

I don't know about you, but I can't live off the proceeds from $10 in index funds. Not even if repeated 100 times.

The general principle here is right, but I was kind of curious about exactly what your gains would be.

I curled the last 90 days from http://online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3021-gainnyse-gainer... and if you selected the largest percentage gainer every day for the past 100 days, given you started with $10, you'd have about 828 million after 90 days. (It's worth noting however with 2,800 stocks on the NYSE, that 2800^100 is much longer odds than winning the lottery. Actually, your odds of selected the very highest percentage stock gainer three days in a row are lower than your odds of winning the powerball, assuming such a thing is random).

Unrelated, this has really been a winning quarter for logistics and trucking companies!

>>if you selected the largest percentage gainer every day for the past 100 days, given you started with $10, you'd have about 828 million after 90 days.

This is lottery by very definition.

> if you selected the largest percentage gainer every day for the past 100 days

This is exactly the opposite of the concept of an index fund.

I was talking about the daydreaming of what to with the winnings.

I must be uncreative with my consumption.

Oh. I totally misread your post as advocating putting the money into an index fund instead of buying lottery tickets.

Actually, retiring on the winnings is pretty much what I'd do, too. Though I'd want to diversify holdings over more asset classes than just index funds. When you just want to coast on passive income, it's fair to say even index funds are too risky to put everything in.

Why not both?

In Georgia the lottery-funded state school near-full scholarship is called HOPE.

I've seen a story about it being the only readily and quickly accessible thing approaching small scale investment for people.

Yeah, tell me another way you can become insanely rich with no effort and such little cost.

Work in a startup?

Just kidding!

Is this so much more stupid than throwing your money away on useless consumer junk?

No, but so what?

>but I think people know what a longshot is.

Gambling addiction and various mega-jackpot ticket-purchasing fervors are an indication that many people can't really comprehend the odds. A human can easily visualize 1 (the number of jackpot winners), but less so the scale of the 292,201,337 chances you have to lose (Powerball odds)

If you had a contest where you asked someone to pay $5 to correctly choose a single grain of rice out of 10,000lbs of rice... I doubt you'd get many takers because you're confronted with the physical reality of the odds.

It would be harder than picking a random year between now and when the first dinosaurs existed.

>Is this so much more stupid than throwing your money away on useless consumer junk?

"Junk" in the form of physical goods still holds some level of value. If you bought $1,000 of random physical goods in a year you'd more likely than not have something >$0

I think this is broadly correct. Your system 1 (in Kahneman terms) can tell the difference between 50/50 and 1/10 but something like 1 in 1000 in is put in the same bucket as 1 in 100,000,000 -- unlikely but not impossible. If you want to actually work with odds like that you need to use system 2 to compute something more tractable like EV (~$0.75 on a $2 ticket for tonight's drawing).

In the interest of full disclosure, I probably spent $30 on lotto tickets last year.

I think we've all made gambles despite the odds. That's a bit of an unescapable human element.

I would go for the contrary interpretation: he helped people become wary of lotteries and showed them beyond a shadow of doubt that they could be rigged even if they appeared to be fair. He did in fact damage the lottery, not the non-lottery winners (in the aggregate maybe, but not in a specific way) other than that he hopefully vaccinated them and caused them to bow out of playing the lottery altogether thus saving themselves money they could not miss.

It is more than just a little bit suspicious that in plenty of places where gambling is illegal the state owned lottery is legal. It's fine to gamble as long as the beneficiary is the state, never mind that on average only the lottery organizer gets ahead.

> he helped people become wary of lotteries and showed them beyond a shadow of doubt that they could be rigged

Yap, I was kind of hinting at that. What you said is a valid way to look at it.

> It's fine to gamble as long as the beneficiary is the state, never mind that on average only the lottery organizer gets ahead.

It's part of preying on the poor. Same with payday loans, and alcohol sales. Having lived in poor parts of town it's common to see all 3 being marketed and pushed heavily in those areas. They might claim they don't want to regulate payday loans because "free markets" whatnot, but state lotteries directly controlled by the government. The pretense they use is that proceeds pay for "education". Except even if it is true, then what happens is that education funds get reduced and used for something else because there are these "lottery funds" coming in. So somehow kids getting scholarships or teachers better salaries doesn't usually pan out as expected.

> then what happens is that education funds get reduced and used for something else because there are these "lottery funds" coming in

That's pretty much what happens, any time you inject funds from a new source into a thing, the other source of fund for said thing tends to get reduced.

Lotto in Illinois was introduced as a way to help pay for public education. You can guess how that ended up... hell, they were not even paying the winners for a while (maybe they still are not).

The lottery does pay for education. And the pre-existing education funds were removed. Net gain in funding: 0.

Correct, here's a pretty good explanation. It's crazy really.


Kind of funny how that works when money is fungible eh?

Same thing happened, and continues to happen, with tobacco tax dollars.

Not only is Illinois not paying winners, they're aren't selling Powerball or Mega Millions or any multi-state lottery game.


This is outdated. They passed a budget

> isn't the whole lottery system a tax on lack of education

If anything, it's a tax on intensity of endorphin rushes.

Aside from people who buy them for "fair" reasons, like... the "joke" factor, for example.

Agreed. There are plenty of highly educated people in casinos, or in very risky investments.

I believe he refers to his loved ones.

This is the correct answer. He doesn't care about the lottery system, the states, or the potential winners that didn't get their chance. But getting busted for the crime hurts everyone who cares about him.

> all the people that I know behind me that I hurt

As in sitting directly behind him in the courtroom waiting for sentencing.

Agreed. That's the right answer probably.

Honestly I think if what he did reduces what people spend on lottery tickets, it was ultimately a good thing. It’s sad how much is wasted on that.

>some states they claim to use lottery proceeding to improve math education

About that, this video is worth watching. No that is 100% true, but good enough to start a conversation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PK-netuhHA

If McDonald's takes your money but doesn't give you your food, who has been hurt?

> The prosecutor said Tipton will serve no more than five years, if he behaves and makes parole.

Well at least he didn't sell drugs.

Slightly relevant story: A few years ago I was visiting China and my colleagues there were discussing a city official who had just been found guilty of embezzling tens of millions of dollars from the local government (which is more or less what this guy did). Me: "How much time did he get?" Them: "Three days." Me: "In prison?" Them: "To live."

The median sentence for sale of narcotics (state charges, like the lotto fixer) is less than three years. In some jurisdictions the average drug sale sentence is less than a year.

They just wanted to make an example out of him.

Usually these frauds get sent to minimal security prisons or are under house arrests. But they're burned from doing business forever afterwards.

Last I checked they still did firing line executions in China occasionally.

If you can hack different lotteries in multiple states, how hard can it be to hack voting machines?

You can't count on a complicated extradition process to prevent extradition. With an Interpol Red Notice, travel is difficult. There's informal extradition as well, as El Chapo found out. His Mexican cases were still on appeal when he was shipped north. Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein fled to Morocco, turned around and came home. Still, there are exceptions. France will not extradite its citizens for any reason, in part because of the Holocaust. This keeps Roman Polanski safe. Italy will not extradite its citizens either. Nor will Israel.

Anyone know why these lotteries stopped using the traditional bingo ball machines in favour of a black box?

I think this is a really worthwhile question. Is there some inherent flaw with the randomness of the older style bingo ball machines? Surely the upkeep and maintenance of a few ball tumbling machines is far cheaper than software developers and datacenter costs. Even the fancier air driven ball bouncing designs seem massively less complex and easier to manage long term than a software solution.

It's really telling when computer experts are the ones most scared ahout electronic voting, software lotteries, etc.

Even the best BitCoin experts seem to recommend burying your bitcoin key in you yard or storing it on paper at the bank.

Absolutely. The most useful idea I've seen about how to think about this is this: 'On a network, everything is at zero distance'.

So, imagine the worst people you can imagine in the whole world, sitting right there in the same room as all the things you care about. You'd probably be worried about that, right?

But, the argument goes, we have all these security measures in place between those things. They're not in the same room we've built all these walls! Sure, but those walls are not impenetrable by a long shot. None of them beats simply not being in the same place. Nobody has a teleporter yet, but those layers of security you are relying on are vulnerable to a constantly evolving landscape of exploits, vulnerabilities and plain old fuck-ups.

This is why air gaps are still such a valuable concept. Why off-siting your backup tapes is not an outdated step but rather a pragmatic step in securing your information assets. Why keeping some systems unplugged from any network when they're running critical infrastructure is sensible. Why buring your bitcoin wallet in some secret location is not the behaviour of an off-the-wall tinfoil nutter.

There are, of course, steps to be taken if you have compelling reasons to stay connected, and those steps can get you to (or close to) the same level of assurance as unplugging. But those steps are complex, require ongoing maintenance, and operate in an evolving threat landscape. Think for example: Encryption protocols that we used to consider secure.

There's a simple bypass for that effort and knowledge and it's to unplug. It's a very powerful tool, and yet often ridiculed, in my opinion from positions of either ignorance or zealotry.

Perhaps somewhat ironically they thought balls were easier to rig.

Where did you see this? Everything I read on it made it seem like they were lazy and just didn't want to have to manually run another ball lottery.

Harder to control?

It's a cost reduction measure. Maintaining a physical machine and conducting drawings of balls takes a fair amount of labor.

It is a bit amazing when you think that on average, there is a new millionaire (or even multi-millionaire) made by the different lotteries in the USA every day

It would be interesting to know the rate at which they subsequently fall out of that status.

I think it's even more amazing to consider that for every winner of a 1 million dollar prize, about 1.4 million dollars is taken from other people, mostly those who can't afford it. Not to mention that the winner will be subject to 25-75% taxation, depending on their state, whether they take the lump sum option, how they spend the money, etc.

It's even worse because the people who are most harmed by the psychology of the lottery - gambling addictions, insidious advertising, and false promises - are the most ardent supporters of it, because they are mislead to believe it gives them hope to get out of their poverty when really it only chains them more strongly to it.

It's shameful. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/05/lotteri...

Yeah I think there is so much focus on the JACKPOT that people totally miss how many millionaires are made at every drawing.

I think it is interesting to say the least.

How could you possibly believe you would get away with something like this.

He started in 2005 and the investigation started in 2015, so he did get away with it for 10 years. He probably could have won a few, stopped, and gotten away with it if he'd been less greedy.

The code was clever, generating predictable numbers on a few particular days of the year. And it must have been subtle, to survive 10 years of nobody else noticing.

Makes you wonder how many people do get away with things like this without anybody realising.

Most criminals get away with most crimes. 40% of murders go unsolved.

Wouldn't that mean they don't get away with most murders?

It's close enough that undetected/unreported murders could tip the scales. If you get away with making it look like an accident, isn't in the statistic of unsolved murders.

sure, but most crimes aren't murders.

The investigation started in 2010, so five years. But still, five years is a lot.

I think a big flag would be lots of winning tickets with the numbers selected. I suspect some astonishingly high rate of tickets sold are selected by the lottery terminal ("quick pick").

He would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those pesky kids.

Especially with a frankly embarrassingly poor attempt to place distance between himself and the payouts. He picked his own brother and a close family friend? Might as well have walked up to his boss every other week with a spot of feigned surprise and a new jackpot winning ticket to cash out, figuring they could direct deposit it along with his paycheck.

Really makes you wonder how many moderately intelligent people out there are successfully running schemes like this and just never arouse suspicion.

The family friend would have been fine.

The problem was not enough legwork. That person should have played those numbers for a few months or at least weeks before hand.

As a thought exercise, what do you think the minimum distance between the cheater and the payout would need to be in order to avoid detection?

High enough that you can't fully trust the guy getting the payout to share.

If someone you just vaguely know made you an offer to get this payout would you accept it or turn them in? Most of us reading this make enough money that we can afford to be honest in cases like this, so it is a moral question only - are you really dishonest enough to cheat?

Yeah I'd accept that, without much hesitation.

I don't know if distance matters. Let's say he found the perfect stranger who agrees to this. I think the bigger problem would be how do they exchange $7,000,000 in a way that nobody will notice?

Money-laundering is cheap and easy.

at minimum a bacon number of 2

AKA Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

> Might as well have walked up to his boss every other week with a spot of feigned surprise and a new jackpot winning ticket to cash out, figuring they could direct deposit it along with his paycheck.

Now this is a prestige TV series I would watch.

smart enough to pull it off but dumb enough to think that having your brother win a $14,000,000 prize is not suspicious and wouldn't be investigated... that's impressive.

Even the stupid lizard criminal portion of my brain tells me that you never set yourself up to win the jackpot. You take the third place prize.

But even then, you need a plausible reason to be cashing in so many winning tickets, so you also spend some of your guaranteed winnings on losing tickets, and also buy a bunch that will break even. That 3rd-place prize is less suspicious if you're also cashing in 1000 $2 winners at the same time, and putting it all into a "Lottery Buyer's Club LLC" account.

It's the Superman III principle. You can steal as many half-pennies as you can haul away in a truck, but if you take even one $10000 note, someone is going to notice.

It wasn't his brother. But it was a friend who lived in Texas that tried to claim the Iowa lottery winnings.

The Iowa Attorney General was so incompetent in the digital forensics they barely convicted him the first trial. Only after did they figure out how he did it.

Is there an explanation somewhere of the technical details of how he did it?

The firm who investigated presented at DEFCON this year. Here's the PDF.


> Investigators who examined the random number generator for the Wisconsin random number generator concluded it contained two extra bits of coding that instructed it to produce Tipton’s numbers on just three days of the year.

Super unfortunate wording. I spent a second wondering how you could encode that much precision in two 'bits'.

This seems like a good case for open source; and pay bounties for anything untoward. I really am curious what the code looks like for this.

Related question: how many people have gotten away with things like this that we have no knowledge of?

This guy got away with it for 5 years. The only other one I know of is the McDonald's Monopoly guy who rigged it for 4 years. This tells me you can get away with it for a while, repeatedly. And I really doubt most people would take a huge payout, then keep working that job to do it again. So I suspect that it takes 4 or 5 years to get caught and we're just catching the minority of people greedy enough to keep their scam going for years, despite the massive amounts of money they've accumulated already.

Let's start the betting on the answers...

People overestimate over estimate possible improbable odds and underestimate near certain odds.

Much the same way the mental processes enjoy playing the lottery.

See Possibility Effect, Certainty Effect

Time to switch over to provably fair lotteries!

Like with some sort of cryptocurrency...?

There is an ICO next week for this!


Yeah ! Actually, Vitalik Buterin in conferences gives this precise example of crypto-lottery as a good example of what we could create with blockchain :)

This is actually a hard problem. In order to be provable, you have to be deterministic (i.e. you can't leave the RNG as a black box). However you can't let any individual (nor any conspiring individuals, think Sybil attacks) predict the result, nor have any control over the result (except perhaps to disqualify themselves).

What about this scheme?

This week's random number is the concatenation of three cryptographic signatures of last week's random number. The three private keys are kept in different places on cryptographic tokens and they are guarded. Lottery numbers are drawn by a deterministic algorithm using the week's random number as seed. In the case of a compromise of a single private key it can be revoked and replaced by the signature of the two other keys.

I'm not a cryptographer, maybe this scheme is flawed in some way that I can't immediately see.

Presumably, the winner of the lottery will earn lots of money. As such, someone would be willing to spend lots of money in order to ensure they can win. They could therefore bribe the guards to give up the keys before bets are placed, and therefore know what to bet on.

This was somewhat of a solved problem with sites like Satoshi Dice. They could still cheat but everyone would find out the next day and stop playing.

Satoshi Dice seems to solve the problem between two players. This is a much easier problem than 3 or more player. With 3 or more players, you have to worry about other players colluding with each other to increase their chances unfairly.

So, have they not watched Die Hard? The point made in that movie is that when you steal this many millions, they will find you -- unless they think you are already dead (thus, the plot to blow the building and look like they all died in the process).

What were these fools thinking?

Using movies as basis for decision is even worse.

Wow American sentences are out of this world. You get less than that for mass murder in Norway.

Do these people not do code and/or security reviews? The random number generator for a lottery seems like the most important part and should be heavily audited.

> Tipton's lawyer said he expects his client will serve three to four years before being released.

Far from the 25 years mentioned in the headline...

I'd love to know what he actually did. You'd think with what is at stake, the lottery would have some serious security measures in place to stop someone doing an obfuscated if(date=x) return [12,34,5,6,7]; or messing with the RNG.

Anyone have details on how exactly he did it, and how he got caught? I'm not a lottery player but I'm intrigued by the fact that one state had refused to pay him because they thought it was fraudulent. What was their cue?

I'm not saying this person is innocent, but 25 years for something that didn't hurt anyone is way excessive. This sentence would be more appropriate for murderers, and yet some of them get way less.

One of the principles of tort law is that the penalty should account for the likelihood of getting caught. If your nuclear power plant melts down, punitive damages will be low, since there's no way you could have ever covered it up, and the plant will typically pay mostly compensatory damages for direct harms. For a tort where you expect that thousands of people have done it without getting caught, the punitive damages are very high so that the overall calculus for a prospective criminal becomes net negative expected value.

That's not a principle of criminal law in the US but often becomes part of the sentence extrajudicially.

Pointless though as that is not how humans really assess risk. England tried thisin the 1700s or so. Replacing cops with harsh penalties. Did not work, punishment levels kept going up without any affect on crime

It may be how companies assess risk, especially family-owned businesses, which is probably why it's remained in tort law.

Seems like he hurt every single person who played the game without cheating, to an aggregate of millions of dollars. Seems like 25 years is extraordinarily generous. If he picked 10,000 pockets or robbed 1000 banks he would get life in prison, and deserve it.

I didn't understand the State here, who did he harm? "All the people that were harmed", what does that mean?

Eddie Tipton tarnished lottery's reputation. The State milks lottery (taxes) and therefore loses financially if lottery reputation is tarnished.

This is the reason the lottery should be run by a smart contract in Ethereum for example, like https://lifelottery.github.io/


Money represents time and resources. He can't exactly restore those either.

Reading the title I agreed, but consider that his lawyer says he expects him to serve only three or four years, so it's not that bad.

A lot can happen. If the punishment should be 5 years give him five years why the 25 years / life sentence

For reasons that escape me, what they did violate the law in three states; Iowa, Wisconsin and Colorado. They signed a multi-state plea agreement, probably to avoid being convicted three times.


Kinda discouraging to make what would seem like a completely REASONABLE and VALID comment, and get downvoted. What's the point?! That's why I removed it.

> The prosecutor said Tipton will serve no more than five years, if he behaves and makes parole.

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