He Read the Lotto Numbers. Then He Came Up With a Plan

The tale of Nick Perry and the April 24, 1980, lotto drawing
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2019 6:08 PM CDT
He Was 'Pittsburgh Royalty,' Until His Scheme Unraveled
   (Getty Images)

Pittsburgh’s No. 1 TV station in the late '70s was WTAE Channel 4—and it had a No. 1 of its own. Nick Perry was "Pittsburgh royalty," writes Zachary Crockett for the Hustle, so much so that the announcer and TV host was asked to take on the role of calling out the Pennsylvania state lottery's daily numbers on the station. It's a gig that paved the path toward a prison sentence. Crockett takes readers inside "one of the largest scandals in state lottery history," a rigged April 24, 1980, drawing that was masterminded by Perry (who maintained his innocence until his 2003 death). The target was the Daily Number, a series of three digits drawn by removing the lid from each of three air-powered machines; the three numbered balls that were first up each of the machines' plastic tubes were the night's winners. The maximum per-ticket payout for getting the sequence right: $2,500.

In February 1980, Perry struck up a friendship with Edward Plevel, who was tasked with maintaining the security of the machines and balls—a business so serious the rules stipulated that regular check-ins by an independent lab couldn't find a difference in mass between the balls larger than "about half the weight of an ant." The idea Perry presented to Plevel: get access to the storage room where the balls were kept and weigh down all the numbers except the 4s and 6s, which would result in just 8 possible winning combinations. They roped in others, including the station's former art director, who recreated the balls by hand and added a bit of white latex paint to the numbers that needed to be heavier. The group bought 14,000 tickets. Then came the numbers: 6-6-6. They had won an "unheard-of" $1.2 million. Then they were found out. (Read the full story.)

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