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Wednesday, May 9, 2018
The man who cracked the LOTTERY
Reid Forgrave, illustrations by Francesco Francavilla (New York Times, May 3, 2018); Crystal Quintero, Seth Auberon, Sheldon S. (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
When the Iowa attorney general’s office began investigating an unclaimed lottery ticket worth millions, an incredible string of unlikely winners came to light. The trail pointed to an inside job.
The file landed on Rob Sand’s desk with something less than a thud. Despite holding the contents of an investigation still open after more than two years, the file was barely half an inch thick. “Happy birthday,” his boss said.
It was not Rob Sand’s birthday. His boss, an Iowa deputy attorney general named Thomas H. Miller, was retiring in July 2014 after nearly three decades of prosecuting everything from murder to fraud.
He hired Sand about four years earlier and made him the youngest prosecutor in a nine-attorney team that handled challenging cases all over the state. Now Miller was offloading cases to colleagues. This one, having to do with a suspicious lottery ticket worth $16.5 million, was full of dead ends.
Investigators didn’t even know if a crime had been committed. The most tantalizing pieces of evidence were on a DVD: two grainy surveillance clips from a gas station. Sand slid the disc into his laptop and pressed play.
A man walked into a QuikTrip convenience store just off Interstate 80 in Des Moines. It was a weekday afternoon, two days before Christmas.
The hood of the man’s black sweatshirt was pulled over his head, obscuring his face from two surveillance cameras overhead. Under the hoodie, he appeared to be wearing a ball cap; over the hoodie, he wore a black jacket. The man grabbed a fountain drink and two hot dogs.
“Hello!” the cashier said brightly.
The man replied in a low-pitched drawl, a voice that struck Sand as distinct: “Hell-ooooh.” More