Jim Flynn

Jim Flynn, Money & the Law

In the legal world, it’s not unusual for a silver lining to come with a cloud. Amir Massihzadeh is a good example.

On Nov. 23, 2005, Massihzadeh held one of three winning Colorado lottery tickets for a $4.8 million jackpot.

He chose a lump sum payment (rather than installments) and, after a deduction for income taxes, collected $568,990.

But 10 years later, the Colorado State Lottery Division learned that the other two winning tickets for the Nov. 23, 2005, drawing had been procured by fraud. The chief fraudster was Eddie Tipton, who was caught in 2010 manipulating the Iowa state lottery. Tipton was the chief security officer for the Multi-State Lottery Association, an entity that, by contract, runs lotteries for Colorado and 32 other states.

Tipton had unfettered access to the software the association used to run lotteries, and this allowed him to predict (apparently with a high degree of accuracy) winning lottery numbers. Eddie Tipton, with help from his brother Tommy, sold this information for the Nov. 23, 2005, Colorado lottery drawing, leading to the two winning tickets in addition to the one held by Massihzadeh.

The Tipton brothers pleaded guilty to charges related to the Iowa lottery.

In exchange for restitution, Colorado agreed not to prosecute for acts affecting the Nov. 23, 2005, drawing.

After learning of these events , Massihzadeh in 2017 sued the Colorado Lottery Division seeking the other two-thirds of the Nov. 23, 2005, prize (plus a whole bunch of interest), alleging breach of contract. The division rejected that claim, relying on a sentence in the Colorado statutes on lotteries: “The Division shall be discharged of all liability upon the payment of any prize. … ”

Massihzadeh had good arguments on why this sentence in the statutes shouldn’t apply to him, but to no avail.

The Denver District Court dismissed his suit, and his appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals was equally unsuccessful. The appellate court zeroed in on the word “any,” agreeing with the division that, since the prize was paid to Massihzadeh (which qualified as “any prize”), the division had no further liability.

So, unless the Colorado Supreme Court agrees to hear the case (about as likely as winning the lottery), Massihzadeh will have to be satisfied with what he received in 2005, minus whatever he has now had to share with the legal profession in his unsuccessful effort to augment his winnings.

Jim Flynn is with the Colorado Springs firm of Flynn & Wright LLC. Contact him at moneylaw@jtflynn.com. “Best of Jim Flynn’s Money & the Law” is now available at amazon.com — paperback or e-book.

Jim Flynn is with the Colorado Springs firm of Flynn & Wright LLC. Contact him at moneylaw@jtflynn.com. "Best of Jim Flynn's Money & the Law" is now available at amazon.com — paperback or e-book.

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