Authorities have seized $2.2 million and broken up a private lottery that they say mimicked the Michigan State Lottery but paid off significantly more money for matching winning numbers.
Operating from modest homes in Detroit and nearby Oak Park, the family business appears to have roots going back 30 years, the Wayne County sheriff's department and prosecutor's office announced Friday.
"Numbers operations have been around for several decades before the lottery, but this is the largest we have seriously disrupted," Sheriff Warren Evans said. "They appear to have a large customer base and to have handled a tremendous amount of money."
Evans and Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to give details on the operation, saying more information would be released at the six defendants' preliminary examinations.
Officials say Heloise Johnson, 77, of Oak Park, was the "matriarch" of the private lottery, running it with her daughter and three adult grandchildren. Prosecutors say another man also was involved in the case.
The defendants were named in warrants issued Thursday charging them with gambling conspiracy and taking illegal bets. They were scheduled to be arraigned Monday and, if convicted, face up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.