One family in America, the Brudnicks, have cashed in hundreds of scratch tickets worth more than $440,000.
Over the past few years, one family has caught the attention of Massachusetts Lottery officials. Robert Brudnick, an insurance agent, has cashed in 140 winning tickets worth over $1,000 each. His daughter, 25-year-old Ashley, has another 100 wins. Nathan, his 23-year-old son, has racked up 99 more.
Officials and statisticians are dumbfounded. With the odds of winning at least $1,000 with the popular $5 tickets being 1 to 5,300, how can any family be that fortunate? The Brudnick family has beat those odd every other day, on average, for two years straight.
So how did it happen?
Top 5 most frequent winners of the Massachusetts State Lottery, by number of winning tickets:
• Clarance Jones – 1,745
• Ali Jaafar – 1,291
• John Steeves – 1,070
• Frank Obey – 470
• Robert Renaud – 218
Reporters working for international gambling news have contacted the Brudnicks, but they refused to talk about it. Meanwhile, state lottery officials suspect these people are actually what they call “ten percenters”.
So what does this term mean? First of all, if you win more than $600 at the lottery, you have to go to the offices to cash your check. But some people don’t want to go through all that trouble, so they hire others to cash in their checks, and offer them 10% of their winnings, as a commission.
“We can only suspect they are cashing in other people’s tickets,” lottery director Beth Bresnahan told reporters. “The odds are not in their favor to win so often on their own.”
It is not the first time when state officials suspect some people may be using middlemen to cash in their tickets. There are a number of reasons why people would choose to do something like that: to evade taxes, child support, or other debts.
It might sound pretty straightforward, but understanding how such a scheme works is quite complicated. And proving that these people are breaking American gambling laws or any other federal or state laws is even more complicated.
In 1999, a state auditor found that many lottery winners appeared to be using fake names and social security numbers. Some of them chose to use middlemen in order to evade taxes and other obligations. One person called Clarance Jones also appeared to be winning remarkably often, cashing in 319 tickets in just one year.
This controversial practice seems to have grown since then. Compared to 15 years ago, these suspicious winners are cashing in four times as many tickets, claiming three times as much in prize money. Jones is now 76 and he has turned in over 1,300 tickets last year. Over the past decade, he appears to have won more than 12,000 times, cashing in a total of $22 million!
Bresnahan acknowledged that the lottery hasn’t managed to come up with a solution yet. According to the rules, the authority has an obligation to pay out all prizes, regardless of who brings the winning ticket. Officials never track who buys them.
Punishing fake lottery winners
According to the law, the lottery holds back 5% of prizes worth $600 or more for state taxes, and an additional 25% for federal taxes on all prizes equal to or above $5,000. Some lottery winners file for refunds and get back a large part of that money. Jones got back the bigger part of the taxes he paid and so have many others.
In an attempt to put a stop to these kinds of schemes, lottery officials are working together with other state agencies. They have even managed to collect $9 million in delinquent taxes and child support payments owed to the local budget. But the side-effect of these measures is that the number of lottery winners going through middlemen has increased.
Meanwhile, Ashley Brudnick, her father Robert, and brother Nathan have cashed in over $400,000 in tickets, from 170 vendors in located in 37 cities. And authorities are still not sure how to get to the bottom of it.