Colorado does not have to pay a Boulder man the full $4.8 million Colorado Lottery jackpot prize he won back in 2005, even though the two others he split the winnings with were later found to have cheated as part of a scheme to defraud lotteries in multiple states.
That was the ruling handed down Thursday by the Colorado Court of Appeals, finding that Amir Massihzadeh is going to have to settle for the $568,990 he walked away with after taxes.
The panel upheld a lower court’s ruling that Colorado law is clear that Lottery Division officials were absolved of any liability when they paid Massihzadeh, even if he was the rightful winner of the larger prize.
State law, the three judges hearing the case unanimously found, doesn’t specify what amount must be handed out to satisfy the prize and fulfill the contract patrons agree to by purchasing a ticket.
So as long as the lottery gave Massihzadeh something, the ruling says, the state was in the clear.
“The division is discharged from all liability upon payment of any prize — not a ‘designated prize,’ and Massihzadeh’s receipt of one-third of the jackpot was clearly ‘any prize,’” Judge Daniel Taubman wrote in the court’s ruling.
The two other tickets were won through manipulation by brothers Eddie and Tommy Tipton, according to case documents.
Eddie worked as a security director for the Multi-State Lottery Association, altering software in order to be able to know the winning numbers for the 2005 Colorado jackpot.
Tommy Tipton transferred a winning ticket to third person, and a third party, Cuestion de Suerte LLC, redeemed the third winning ticket after being provided with the winning numbers, the ruling says.
“The state of Colorado agreed not to prosecute the brothers in exchange for a restitution agreement from Tipton to pay $1,137,980 (the total amount paid out to the two holders of the fraudulent tickets),” according to the ruling.
The Tiptons were also implicated in rigging lottery drawings across several other states, including Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma. Authorities say it was a years-long scheme that netted millions of dollars.
Massihzadeh filed his suit in September 2017 after learning about the manipulation of the Colorado lottery.
The case could be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.
“We will be discussing with our client tomorrow and thereafter make a decision if we will file a petition for certiorari to the Colorado Supreme Court,” said Robert Duncan, one of Massihzadeh’s attorneys.