The Iowa Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed a portion of the fraud convictions of a former lottery official accused of fixing a Hot Lotto game in Iowa in 2010 but upheld a second conviction.
The court concluded there was enough evidence to convict Eddie Tipton on the charge related to tampering with lottery computers but threw out the charge related to attempting to cash the lottery ticket, saying prosecutors waited too long to file it.
The result sends the case back to district court, where the one charge will be dismissed and Tipton will be resentenced — likely to five years in prison. He was initially sentenced to 10 years but has been free while his appeal was being considered.
Tipton contends that evidence at his July 2015 trial was insufficient to support a conviction, but a jury agreed with prosecutors, who alleged that he had tampered with computers designed to generate random numbers for the Hot Lotto game to allow him to pick the winning combination.
Tipton, 53, was the computer information security director for the Urbandale, Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association, which provides random number generating computers to several states for lottery games.
As a MUSL employee, he was prohibited from playing the lottery. He was fired after his January 2015 arrest.
Tipton’s attorney, Dean Stowers, argued before the court last month that there was no direct evidence to show that Tipton had changed the computer number-picking program or had any connection with the people who tried to cash in the $16.5 million Iowa Hot Lotto lottery ticket. Iowa lottery officials never paid the jackpot because they couldn’t confirm whether the ticket was legally purchased or possessed.
The appeals court justices found in addition to filing the charge too late, there was no firm evidence that Tipton was involved in the scheme to cash in the winning ticket and said that charge must be dismissed.
The court found there was enough evidence to substantiate the computer tampering conviction.
“Based on this circumstantial evidence, the jury reasonably could have found that Tipton tampered with the random number generator computers with the intent to influence the lottery winnings,” the court found.
Iowa Assistant Attorney General Rob Sand said the state is considering its options on the dismissed charge, including whether to ask the state Supreme Court to review the ruling.
Stowers said he’s also considering an appeal.
Tipton faces a second trial in Iowa in February on ongoing criminal conduct and money laundering charges alleging that he manipulated computers to fix lottery games in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, and then worked with others to cash the tickets.