Powerball Lottery Hoax: The Details

Here's Bob's preliminary account of the powerball lottery hoax:

Alan Abel and I have been talking about doing something with the Powerball for the better part of a year now. It all came together really quickly last weekend when we heard that the record Powerball jackpot was finally won. A number of things came together that made this week just about perfect: It was a record amount; there was only one winner; it was won in a rural state which would make things seem less suspicious; Monday was a holiday, meaning that the lottery office would be closed, almost certainly buying us at least 24 hours to operate before the real winner surfaced.

This is just sort of the Reader's Digest version but I'll put something more comprehensive together for you on Thursday. I flew to Omaha on Sunday afternoon and arrived at midnight Central Time. Monday morning, Alan, his daughter's boyfriend Jeff (who was there to videotape the event and was playing my son) and a lovely woman named Nancy (who played my niece) headed over to Lincoln to set up. We found the convenience store where the ticket was sold; there were about a half-dozen TV satellite trucks outside it. We wanted to find a nice Mom and Pop-type restaurant not too far from there where we could operate.

On the same street, but across town, we found a Denny's-type place called The Village Inn. I walked in, introduced myself to the manager and gave him an envelope with $2000 in it, which I told him to use to pay for the check of everyone in the place. Within about 10 minutes, the first reporter, from a local radio station, showed up. I recorded an interview with him and he also did a live shot from there over his cell phone.

Next, I got a call from Good Morning, America which wanted to fly me to New York City immediately so I could be on their show the next morning. Obviously, I had to decline. Then the floodgates opened. Over the next 2.5 hours or so I was inundated with media. At one point, I had five TV cameras pointed at me, a radio reporter to my left and a print guy to my right. It was madness.

In time, though, the inconsistencies in my story started to show. Since I wasn't privy to the details of the real ticket, I had to make things up. I said that I bought one ticket; the lottery commission said, however, that the winner had bought five sets of numbers on one ticket. Also, I said that I thought that it was a man who sold me the ticket; in reality, it was a woman who sold it. And so forth.

Finally, we decided to head back to our hotel in Omaha. We weren't sure if the thing was going to have "legs" as they say, but it's only gotten crazier since then. I did a short interview over the phone with KPTV, Channel 12 in Portland, OR from the airport in Vegas. Today, I talked to a columnist in Des Moines, KPAM radio in Portland and I'm going to be on the Johnathan Brandmier show in Chicago early Thursday morning.

By the way, using the last name "Pagano" rather than "Pagani" was Alan's idea. His thought was that I HAD to use a different name since I'm fairly prominent on Google but if I used a totally different name, it was possible that one or more of my friends would see me and contact the media outlet to let them know that they got my name wrong. On the other hand, with only one letter off, they'd think that it was a simple typo and just let it pass. Good thinking.

I should mention that the whole venture was bankrolled by a guy named Joe Vitale, who has a website at joevitale.com. We couldn't have done it without his patronage.

So, that's the thumbnail version. I'm going to be putting together a longer narrative later, as soon as I (hopefully) get over the horrible virus which has infected everyone in my family and which is making it almost impossible for me to hear anything on my right side.


Posted on Sat Feb 25, 2006


Pretty darn cool! I'd love to hear the whole story, along with all the details (the reporters tripping over themselves just to be the first to report each tidbit as it's told)...
Posted by Christoher in Joplin, Missouri  on  Sun Feb 26, 2006  at  06:38 AM
I've been out of town for a few days and just heard about this. Good work Cranky! So now you can update your blog.

This reminds me of a prank a co-worker played on a group that pooled their money to buy lottery tickets every week. The key to making the prank work was on draw day, one of the group would write the winning numbers on a white-board so the rest could come around and check at their convenience.

This co-worker who played the prank wasn't in the pool. So one day after the winning numbers had been posted he went and changed them to the numbers on his own ticket. Then he waited in the area for someone to come by and check numbers. When they did he came up beside them casually pretending to be checking his own ticket against the "winning numbers". Of course there was one amazed lottery player who thought this guy had really won the big one. Unfortunately, he confessed soon afterwards. I think he could have had a lot more fun with it though.
Posted by Captain Al  on  Mon Feb 27, 2006  at  12:01 PM
Wow, that's awesome Cranky! You truly are Cranky Media Guy. I also liked your Andy Kaufman Segment on your website.

Posted by Carter S  on  Mon Feb 27, 2006  at  01:39 PM
If nothing else, a few diners at The Village Inn got hooked up with some free grub.
Posted by Travis Finucane  on  Mon Feb 27, 2006  at  05:16 PM
Thanks, Carter. That video piece with Andy K. was taped 45 minutes after I first met him, believe it or not. It is the single unlikeliest thing that has ever happened to me. I would be embarassed to even tell the story about it if I didn't have witnesses to back me up on it.

Travis, yeah, the diners at The Village Inn on East O. St. in Lincoln, Nebraska all enjoyed a free meal courtesy of our little hoax. It was really sweet the way people kept coming up to me the whole time we were there, congratulating me on my "win" and saying that they were glad a nice guy won, etc.

Since getting back home from Nebraska, I've seen an newspaper article in which one of the restaurant's managers was quoted as saying that they couldn't have bought so much publicity. I'm glad they took it in the right spirit. After all, we didn't scam them out of anything; we spent over a grand feeding everyone there and tipping the wait staff.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  02:13 AM
Wow, 45 min? that's cool. You have some famous friends. Well, I guess you're pretty famous, eh.

later Cranky
Posted by Carter S  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  06:59 PM
Theres no question here Mr "Mis-Fire" uses "Spiritual Marketing" as an Atractor Factor" in Hoaxes and "Creative Truth"

Posted by Mr Fire Sucks  on  Wed Mar 15, 2006  at  12:49 AM
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