A young man from Festus, Missouri set up his own online lottery and named it after a TV show. He called his Web site "pimpmyride.com."
"Pimp My Ride" is a show on MTV. There's no connection between the show and the lottery.
The lottery Web site invited people to enter the contest for a $2 fee. The winner of a random drawing was to get $20,000 to customize, or "pimp out," their vehicle.
The site drew entries from across the country. Some people entered as many as 100 times.
According to court records, about 4,400 consumers purchased more than 12,000 chances. The man who set up the lottery deposited more than $27,000 in an online account, authorities say.
None of it was legal, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon said Wednesday.
"You can't just start selling chances for a lottery for your own personal gain," Nixon said. He said Missouri law restricts games of chance to those allowed by the state constitution or statutes.
"Unfortunately," he added, "the reach of the Internet enables such illegal schemes to proliferate across the country."
Randall Sherman, attorney for the Web site operator, said his client "just thought it was something fun to do. And he could make some money off of it, too."
The state filed a civil fraud suit this week in Jefferson County Circuit Court. A judge issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday barring the Web site operator, Nathan Leiweke, from advertising the lottery or selling more entries.
According to the state's lawsuit, Leiweke's Web site said that only half of the entry fees would be used for prize money; the other half would be used for "fees associated with maintenance and upkeep of the Web site and contest."
The site also said that unless at least 20,000 entries were sold, the money would be donated to a charity. The charity wasn't identified.
There was no mention of who would get the money kept as "fees."
Leiweke's attorney, Sherman, said some of the money has been spent to operate the Web site. He said he didn't know how much money was left in a Paypal account.
Sherman described Leiweke as a college student, in his 20s, who was unaware that he was doing anything wrong. Sherman said his client was cooperating with the state investigation and had voluntarily shut down his Web site.
"Lots of people do raffles," Sherman said. "As it turns out, Missouri has a state law that says you have to be a charity. But I don't think the average person would know that."
At MTV in New York, a spokesman said the network was aware of the allegations and had no comment.
The state is asking the judge to order Leiweke to pay restitution to consumers and penalties to the state.
The lottery Web site is "currently under construction."