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Kickback probe launched at the Texas Lottery

Jun 20, 2007, 7:44 am

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Texas LotteryTexas Lottery: Kickback probe launched at the Texas Lottery

The Travis County district attorney's office confirmed Tuesday that it has launched a criminal investigation after an allegation that someone affiliated with the Texas Lottery Commission may have solicited kickbacks from a financial planning firm that helped some Lotto Texas winners manage their money.

Assistant District Attorney Greg Cantwell of the office's public integrity unit said he could not divulge the details of the inquiry but said that the lottery commission was cooperating.

"I can confirm that we have received a complaint and that we are working with the lottery commission to resolve it," Cantwell said.

The investigation was initiated after lottery watchdog Dawn Nettles told the lottery commission during its May 16 meeting that a reader of her tipsheet had brought information to her attention suggesting that some Lotto winners had been advised to hire a particular financial planning firm.

Nettles told the commissioners that it had been "alleged to me that a winner did come in here and a staff member did refer them [to a financial planner], handed them a card underneath the table for them to seek counsel from ... and they have suggested that there have been kickbacks involved."

The remark startled Commissioner C. Thomas Clowe, who instructed top lottery officials to look into the allegations and to seek the assistance of the district attorney's office if necessary.

"When a sworn witness appears before this commission and gives sworn testimony that there have been — I'm not sure whether it's criminal or civil violations of the law, I don't think this board can sit back and just act like allegations didn't occur," Clowe said at the time.

Nettles, a persistent critic of the way the lottery operates, said Tuesday that she has been contacted by an investigator with the district attorney's office and was trying to assist him with the inquiry, but was reluctant to disclose the name of her tipster

Lottery spokesman Bobby Heith said officials at the agency that operates a range of scratch-off and numbers games that generate more than $1 billion a year take such allegations seriously, but cautioned that nothing had been proved.

"We contacted the DA, and our staff has been instructed to follow up on what Ms. Nettles has alleged," Heith said. "I think you can tell from the remarks made by Commissioner Clowe at the meeting that this is something that is taken quite seriously by the commission."


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