Oct 19, 2022 - News

Inside Michigan's $30 million lottery scam

Illustration of a pair of legs sticking out from a pile of money.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A local real estate broker became one of the state lottery's biggest winners ever by buying hundreds of tickets a day with money from investors in his Ponzi-style scheme, The Atlantic reports.

What happened: The broker, Troy-based Viktor Gjonaj, exchanged thousands of winning tickets for nearly $30 million over a nine-month stretch, using a system he believed gave him an edge based on perceived patterns.

  • But his system was bunk. In reality, he was cashing winning tickets with pure luck, propped up with massive expenditures on tickets.
  • Gjonaj lured investors into sham real-estate deals to support his gambling problem.

What they're saying: "Once I hit the $10 million, I think it raised 100 red flags within the lottery," Gjonaj recalled.

The impact: As the scheme inevitably fell apart, Gjonaj feared for his family's safety and eventually confessed to federal authorities.

  • He was charged with one count of federal wire fraud in January 2021.

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