The Georgia Lottery is launching a full-scale effort to crack down on so-called "shadow winners" — people who take a percentage of the prize to stand in for the real winner.
Anyone with a winning ticket over $600 must show the Georgia Lottery proof of ID to collect their money. Before that cash is handed out, though, the Georgia Lottery checks to see whether the winner owes any back taxes or court-ordered judgments such as child support or educational loans.
If that's you, a shadow winner can help you keep more of your big prize.
Kip Wise admits he's a shadow winner. He was asked by a local reporter if he ever felt like he was doing something wrong.
"No. I didn't," Wise said. "I'm just like everybody else. I'm trying to get ahead and stay ahead."
Wise insists he's only providing a public service to his community. For years, the long time Griffin liquor store owner has pretended to be something he admits he's not: one of the luckiest lottery players in Georgia.
Since 2009, Wise has claimed 107 lottery wins of at least 600 dollars. Total collected: $137,915.
Let's just say not all of those are tickets Wise originally bought.
Wise said of the tickets that were not his, he was doing people a favor.
"Believe it or not, I've had people tell me they've never been to Macon. Never been to Atlanta," Wise said.
So instead of the real winner making that drive to collect at a Georgia Lottery office, Wise would step in, give the customer 75 percent of the prize and then tell the Georgia Lottery he's the official lucky guy.
Wise claims he's one of many shadow winners also working as a lottery retailer.
"I've had the opportunity to buy some and I didn't pay enough and they say so and so would pay more so I'm not the only one in the state of Georgia that might be buying tickets," Wise said.
But it's not just convenience. The Georgia Lottery says these so-called shadow winners can help the real winners avoid paying court-ordered debts like back child support or back taxes. And they can do it, over and over again.
The Fox 5 I-Team analyzed Georgia Lottery winners going back to 2009, including scratch-off and Keno, and found a lot of amazingly lucky people.
A Newnan man claimed 308 winning tickets. He collected $435,613.
An Albany man — 260 wins of at least 600 dollars. The Georgia Lottery paid him a total of $354,287.
In fact, the news station looked for anyone who won big 50 or more times, and found 98 big winners.
When asked if he was worried that perhaps he's participating in a scam to avoid people paying their child support, Wise said no. "I don't know if they're not paying child support," he explained.
And Wise said he didn't want to know either.
Earlier this year the Georgia Lottery began scrutinizing all prize claims that require winner identification. Investigators also began studying just how often Lady Luck seemed to smile on some of those repeat winners.
That's how Kip Wise got caught. The state rejected his claim for a $1000 scratch off winner citing "highly improbable results" of his past wins, including a day last October when Wise cashed in nine winning tickets at one time.
He's one of 11 winners rejected by the state this year. Regardless, he says there are plenty more retailers like him, willing to work in the shadows of success.
"If they crack down on everybody in the state, they would crack down on 75 percent of the people in GA that are running lottery machines," warned Wise.
The Georgia Lottery announced other changes "to protect and educate our players and promote retailer integrity."
- Develop "No Pay" lists at district offices, required those with questionable claims to be referred to lottery headquarters for further follow-up.
- Acquiring analytical software and services to identify frequent prize claims.
- Implementing "sting" operations to ensure Georgia Lottery rules and regulations are being followed.
Lottery officials point out that taxes and withholding are taken out of every winning ticket no matter who claims the money. The information is also sent to the IRS and Georgia Department of Revenue.
Since the Lottery began in 1993, $2,414,590 has been taken out of prize money to pay for back child support.
Thanks to Toney725 for the tip.