WASHINGTON (WUSA9) – A man who sold himself a $1,000,000 winning D.C. Lottery ticket is just one of many retailers a WUSA9 investigation found winning the lottery at rates statisticians say border on impossible.
At least three retailers won the lottery around 100 times according to an analysis of D.C. Lottery records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
"$10,000, $5,000," Lounes Issaad said about some of his 27 payouts that averaged $30,000 each. "I don't have nothing to hide."
He seemed quite open to discussing the wins, but D.C. Lottery is not open about discussing the jackpots or his actual identity.
While D.C. Lottery will not, Issaad does acknowledge - despite the Lottery's news release on his win that portrayed him as a pizza worker - in reality, he owns the store where he bought that $1,000,000 prize.
In the WUSA9 review, we analyzed all prizes of $600 more - which are high enough to be reportable income - over an eight-year period.
Our investigation found lottery retailers make up at least three of the top five D.C. Lottery frequent winners - all with about 100 wins or more.
"It is important to note that frequent wins by individuals, including lottery agents, do not definitively mean improper activity has occurred," said D.C. Lottery spokesman David Umansky. "It is important to note that the information provided to you on frequent winners does not, and cannot show how much money an individual spends playing."
Statisticians who reviewed the numbers at WUSA9's request said the numbers stack up in astounding ways.
"The chance that the top three occupations are all lottery retailers is 1/10,000,000,000 [that's 10 zeros]" said Dan Naiman, a statistics professor at Johns Hopkins University, using a formula assuming the odds of finding someone's occupation is a lottery retailer. "Around the chance of getting heads in 33 consecutive coin flips."
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WUSA9 also uncovered the arrest and conviction of a former Crown Gas Station employee who is accused of printing himself $79,116 worth of Race to Riches tickets without paying and cashing in the winnings elsewhere.
In Issaad's case, Lottery documents and officials have not indicated any disciplinary or legal action, but he acknowledges there were suspicions about missing tickets and lottery money exceeding $50,000.
He said a charge card machine may have played a part in the missing cash.
"Believe me I was playing, I was scratching a lot," Issaad said describing why he won so frequently. "I was addicted. Whatever I won, I always put back."
"What are the odds? Slim," said George Washington University Statistics Professor Dan Ullman. "Very slim."
"One in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,0000,000,000,000,000,000,0000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000," is how the professor estimates the odds of someone having Issaad's luck. "Larger than the number of electrons in the universe."
"That is statistically ridiculous. It just doesn't happen," says University of Illinois Professor Emeritus John Kindt, an expert in gambling and lottery practices. "With the computer software available to lotteries, these statistical red flags should have alerted lottery regulators as far back as 2012."
Nationally, lotteries immediately investigate win anomalies like ticket theft, game rigging and retailers illegally cashing tickets aiding others avoiding taxes or laundering money.
D.C. Lottery said it immediately launched an internal review when it learned of the WUSA9 investigation.
"We don't have an investigation into all the names you gave us, but there will be an investigation into each and every one," said Umansky. "When a suspicious activity comes to the D.C. Lottery's attention…the D.C. Lottery immediately begins a review."
Umansky said it had already cleared one of the top winners, calling him a frequent player.
"That review indicated the individual is an unusually frequent player," Umansky said. "The D.C. Lottery security investigation revealed no wrongdoing by the winner.
"Without an investigation by independent criminal justice entities, the credibility of a lottery is compromised," Professor Kindt said. "In similar instances, the criminal justice authority authorities have looked at these red flags and investigated."
There is no record that any agency has accused Issaad of wrongdoing and Issaad claims his big wins began as pure luck and ended in disaster.
"I was scratching a lot," Issaad said. "Whatever I won, I always put back."
He said putting every dollar back in has now left him broke.
Andrew Kreighbaum, KHOU data specialist and Clare Hymes, WUSA9 investigative intern contributed to this story.
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