Even though Amir Massihzadeh of Boulder, Colorado, was the only legitimate winner of a Colorado Lotto jackpot worth $4.8 million in 2005, he's not eligible to claim the full winnings, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in a decision released Thursday.
Massihzadeh, one of three ticket holders to win that jackpot, accepted his prize of $568,990, after taxes. But 10 years later, a criminal investigation exposed a scheme to rig lotteries across state lines, and officials determined the other two winning tickets that shared the same numbers as Massihzadeh's were fraudulent.
Although at least two of the men involved in the scheme were convicted and ordered to repay their prizes, the Colorado Lottery refused to award the full jackpot to Massihzadeh, saying he was locked into a contract when he signed the original ticket to claim his third of the jackpot.
Tommy Tipton, one of the other ticket holders, transferred his winning ticket to another person, and the third winning ticket went to Cuestion de Suerte LLC. Eddie Tipton, Tommy Tipton's brother, was a security director for the lottery in Iowa and had manipulated the computer program so that he would be able to predict winning numbers. They were caught in Iowa, found to have rigged lotteries in multiple states and ordered to pay restitution in Colorado, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Kansas.
That left Massihzadeh as the only legitimate winner in the Nov. 23, 2005, Colorado Lotto jackpot, which his attorneys said makes him the winner of the full prize. The state disagreed.
Massihzadeh sued in September 2017, but a Denver District Court judge agreed with the state and dismissed his claim in 2018 for "failure to state a claim for relief." So Massihzadeh and his attorneys appealed the decision to the Colorado Court of Appeals.
In April Massihzadeh appealed, but on Thursday, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court decision. In its published opinion, the court said a state statute makes it clear: The Colorado State Lottery Division is protected against any liability after the payment of any winnings.
"Based on the statute's plain language, the division concludes that the trial court properly dismissed the complaint because the payment of one-third of the jackpot and the defendant's acceptance thereof constituted "any prize," sufficient to discharge the Division of liability," Judge Daniel Taubman wrote in the unanimous opinion.
Massihzadeh accepted his winnings, but he didn't know about the fraudulent tickets at the time, and his attorneys argue that he was not paid out the correct prize, thereby negating the state's claim of no liability.
The Colorado Court of Appeals, however, said the statute refers to the payment of "any prize," and Massihzadeh received one.
"We're disappointed in the ruling and we're exploring our options," said attorney Trey Rogers, who represents Massihzadeh.
Robert Duncan, another one of Massihzadeh's attorneys, said he was disappointed in the decision and that he and his colleagues will have to decide whether it makes sense for their client to petition the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case.
"Our job will be to ascertain how would this matter fit into the grand scheme of things in the Colorado Supreme Court and whether to ask or not (for a hearing)," he said.
Colorado Lottery Division representatives and officials from the Colorado Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the case.
Timeline of the biggest crime in US lottery history
The following is a compilation of Lottery Post news coverage chronicling the Hot Lotto mystery and subsequently discovered crime.
We start the timeline with a news story indicating that only 3 months remained for the $16 million Hot Lotto jackpot to be claimed.
- Iowa Lottery security chief bent on determining identity of jackpot winner, Jan. 10, 2012
- NY lawyer in lottery mystery travels to Iowa this week, Jan. 17, 2012
- Iowa Lottery security chief to grill NY lawyer over Hot Lotto ticket, Jan. 17, 2012
- Representative of Hot Lotto winner named in lawsuit, Jan. 20, 2012
- Hot Lotto trust representative won't name winner, Jan. 20, 2012
- Iowa Lottery threatens to deny jackpot payout if winner stays anonymous, Jan. 23, 2012
- Lawyer gives up $14 million Iowa lottery ticket claim, Jan. 26, 2012
- $14.3 million Hot Lotto prize claim withdrawn, Jan. 27, 2012
- Iowa Legislators satisfied with Lottery's handling of mystery jackpot winner, Feb. 1, 2012
- Iowa Lottery to give away millions from jackpot mystery, Feb. 26, 2012
- Iowa Lottery director: 50-50 that Hot Lotto mystery will be solved, Aug. 9, 2012
- Iowa officials trying to solve lotto mystery, may release surveillance video, Aug. 19, 2012
- MUSL employee arrested in Hot Lotto jackpot mystery, Jan. 15, 2015
- BOMBSHELL: MUSL employee might have rigged Hot Lotto computerized drawing, Apr. 13, 2015
- Texas man charged in Iowa lottery case contests extradition, Apr. 20, 2015
- Extradition trial begins this week in $16.5M Hot Lotto fraud case, Jun. 7, 2015
- Inside the biggest lottery scam ever, Jul. 7, 2015
- Trial underway in world's biggest lottery fraud case, Jul. 14, 2015
- Lottery security chief: Rigging computerized game "sadly" possible, Jul. 15, 2015
- Prosecution rests in Hot Lotto trial, Jul. 16, 2015
- Defense quickly wraps up in Hot Lotto trial, Jul. 16, 2015
- Hot Lotto case moves to jury for deliberations, Jul. 17, 2015
- Former lottery security employee guilty of rigging $14.3M drawing, Jul. 20, 2015
- MUSL security worker who rigged drawing gets 10 years, Sep. 9, 2015
- HOT LOTTO DRAWING CHEAT CHARGED WITH RIGGING MORE JACKPOTS, Oct. 9, 2015
- Texas authorities had previously investigated brother of lottery cheat, Oct. 14, 2015
- Another $1.2M Hot Lotto jackpot rigged by Tipton, officials say, Nov. 21, 2015
- Jackpot-fixing investigation expands to more state lotteries, Dec. 18, 2015
- Prosecutors say Tipton rigged two jackpots he purchased tickets for in Kansas, Dec. 21, 2015
- Maine gives names of Hot Lotto winners to Iowa team looking into rigging scheme, Dec. 23, 2015
- S.C. Lottery assures public no computerized drawings used in state, Dec. 23, 2015
- Kansas lottery players questioning game's integrity, Dec. 23, 2015
- MUSL CHIEF OUSTED OVER JACKPOT-RIGGING SCANDAL, Dec. 23, 2015
- Lottery scandal unlikely to affect New Mexico, official says, Dec. 26, 2015
- Tipton granted delay in next trial until July, Dec. 29, 2015
- Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich to answer lottery player questions live Monday evening, Jan. 11, 2016
- First lawsuit in state lottery-fixing scandal seeks millions, Feb. 4, 2016
- MUSL seeks to dismiss lawsuit over rigged jackpot, Apr. 1, 2016
- Lottery scammer's brother facing criminal charges, Apr. 6, 2016
- Investigators find Tipton's software code to rig computerized lottery drawings, Apr. 7, 2016
- Lottery rigging scandal prompts security audit in South Dakota, Apr. 13, 2016
- Preliminary hearing rescheduled for Tommy Tipton in lottery rigging case, Apr. 22, 2016
- Third suspect surrenders in national lottery rigging scandal, Apr. 28, 2016
- Lottery scam investigation comes to Tennessee, May 11, 2016
- Investigators find another friend of Tipton who cashed rigged lottery prize, May 11, 2016
- Convicted computerized drawing fraudster argues Iowa court appeal, Jun. 16, 2016
- US Senate panel demands info in lottery scandal, Jun. 22, 2016
- Lottery rigging trial to be moved out of Des Moines, Jun. 27, 2016
- Eddie Tipton's new trial delayed until 2017, Jul. 1, 2016
- Iowa court reverses part of Tipton's lottery fraud conviction, Jul. 28, 2016
- Internal investigation concludes Tipton acted alone to rig lottery drawings, Aug. 10, 2016
- Prosecutors say 2 more men may be linked to lottery riggings, Aug. 24, 2016
- Judge: winner's lawsuit in lottery-fixing case can continue, Oct. 13, 2016
- Alleged lottery scandal conspirator to enter new plea, Nov. 14, 2016
- Accused lottery rigger Eddie Tipton facing new Wisconsin charges, Dec. 22, 2016
- Man files lawsuit over rigged lottery jackpots, Jan. 4, 2017
- Trials for Tipton brothers charged in lottery scandal delayed, Jan. 8, 2017
- Former MUSL official received severance amid lottery jackpot scandal, Jan. 10, 2017
- Texas man pleads guilty to fraud in lottery scandal case, Jan. 11, 2017
- Iowa Supreme Court hears lottery rigging case, Feb. 14, 2017
- Kansas files lawsuit against accused lottery rigger, Mar. 16, 2017
- Best friend to testify against Tipton at July lottery rigging trial, Mar. 31, 2017
- Mastermind of lottery fraud will explain how he rigged jackpots, Jun. 12, 2017
- FBI missed rigged jackpot in 2006 before lottery scheme grew, Jun. 19, 2017
- The 5 lottery jackpots Tipton and his friends stole, Jun. 20, 2017
- Lottery jackpot rigger's Iowa convictions dismissed, Jun. 23, 2017
- IT'S OFFICIAL: Tipton pleads guilty to rigging computerized lottery drawings, Jun. 29, 2017
- Lottery rigging accomplice used Wisconsin payout for offshore tax scam, Jul. 6, 2017
- Hot Lotto multi-state lottery game to end in October, Aug. 9, 2017
- Lottery rigging mastermind sentenced to 25 years in prison, Aug. 22, 2017
- Winner sues Colorado Lottery 12 years after rigged drawing, Oct. 5, 2017
- Lottery scammer rigged more drawings than first thought, records show, Feb. 19, 2018
- How a gaming geek with a checkered past pulled off the biggest lottery scam in U.S. history, Mar. 16, 2018
- Infamous lottery scammer says US computerized lottery drawings remain fatally flawed, Mar. 19, 2018
- Iowa Lottery wins International Gaming-Compliance award for work in lottery rigging investigation, Apr. 19, 2018
- The man who cracked the lottery, May 3, 2018
- Memo: Iowa Lottery kept selling games after security warning, Aug. 1, 2018
- Investigation finds lottery scamming Tipton brothers have repaid virtually nothing, Dec. 27, 2018
- Lawyers seek to depose lottery fraud mastermind in prison, Jan. 21, 2019
- Iowa lottery lawsuit granted class action, affecting 7.2 million tickets in 19 states, Jan. 28, 2019
- Colorado man who unwittingly split a $4.8M jackpot with scammer is fighting the Colorado Lottery, Apr. 15, 2019
- Lottery-scamming brothers avoid asset seizures by transferring property to their mother, Apr. 29, 2019
- Lottery winner can seek bigger prize at trial, judge rules, May 17, 2019