Convicted bookie helped uncover ‘Triple Six Fix’ Pa. lottery scandal 40 years ago
This is a photo taken from a television monitor of a video tape of the April 24, 1980 drawing of the Pennsylvania Lottery Daily Number game, shown Sept. 19, 1980. Senior citizen Violet Lowery, left, prepares to draw first number ping pong ball while state lottery official Edward Plevel supervises. Governor Thornburgh announced results of a statewide grand jury saying on April 24 drawing was rigged. Plevel is one of 6 persons named in the grand jury presentment. Presentment did not implicate Lowery. (AP Photo/Fred Prouser) AP
On April 24, 1980, the Daily Number drawn in the Pennsylvania Lottery was 666.
That drawing resulted in a record payout at the time of $3.5 million.
In early May, however, someone noticed something fishy.
The Patriot reported on Sept. 20, 1980, “Allegations that the April 24 drawing may have been tampered with first surfaced in early May when Anthony Grosso, who has been called the numbers kingpin in Pittsburgh by the state Crime Commission, told reporters that the drawing had been fixed.
Organized crime figures had noticed heavy betting on numbers using the four-six combination.”
While state officials “denounced the reports” it turns out Grosso was right.
Grosso ran an illegal daily lottery. He served time in prison for racketeering before the “Triple Six Fix” and in 1986 went to prison for violating federal gambling laws and tax evasion.
A half-dozen people faced charges after it was discovered that all of the pingpong balls used in the April 24 drawing – except for the numbers 4 and 6 – had been injected with white latex paint. That ensured that the 4 and 6 balls would be drawn while the others would not be propelled through the selection tubes in the three machines.
Nick Perry, right, a former Pittsburgh, Pa., television emcee and Edward Plevel, left, a suspended Pennsylvania Lottery official, enter an elevator in the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on May 20, 1981, after they both were found guilty of riggings a Pennsylvania Lottery drawing. Plevel was acquitted of one lesser charge. (AP Photo/Paul Vathis) AP
An investigating grand jury recommended “that the following persons be charged with a number of offenses, including criminal solicitation, criminal conspiracy, theft by deception, rigging a publicly exhibited contest, participating in a rigged contest and perjury:”
- Nick Perry, also known as Nick Katsafanas, a WTAE announcer who has hosted the Daily Number drawing since its inception on March 1, 1977. He was suspended by WTAE.
- Edward Plevel of Monessen, Westmoreland County, a district manager in Western Pennsylvania for the state Revenue Department’s Bureau of State Lotteries. The governor said Plevel has been suspended.
- Peter K. Maragos and Jack Maragos, both of Monroeville, Allegheny County. The two each own a third of Forbes Vending Inc., Monroeville. Perry also owns a third of the firm, which services vending machines at the television station.
- James Maragos and his wife, Jean Ella, of Springfield, Delaware County.
In December of 1980 two more people were charged – Joseph Bock, 52, and Fred Luman 50, stagehands at WTAE.
According to prosecutors, Bock weighted the balls by injecting them with the paint using a hypodermic needle and affixed the numbers to the bogus balls. He destroyed the balls after the drawing. Luman was accused of actually switching the balls.
The grand jury found that security surrounding the Daily Number drawing was lacking.
“The report said that security procedures for the Daily Number drawing had become so lax that Perry, whose only responsibility was supposedly to serve as announcer for live television broadcasts of the nightly drawing, was permitted to take control of the ping pong balls used on April 24.
The three machines used in the drawing also were left unsupervised for at least a half-hour prior to the 7 p.m. drawing, providing ample opportunity for the alleged fix, the grand jury’s presentment stated.”
It was revealed that Perry had approached Plevel about the scheme. The three lottery machines and balls were under lock and key when not in use. The security was Plevel’s responsibility. He gave Perry the access he needed.
Bock made the balls that would be used. Peter and Jack Maragos were recruited to buy the lottery tickets. They brought in their brother, James, and his wife.
On the day of the drawing, the Maragos spread out in Philadelphia to buy the tickets at mostly small mom-and-pop-type establishments.
They bought tickets based only on the possible combinations of 4 and 6.
That evening a senior citizen brought in to witness the drawing never participated in a traditional practice run around 6:30 p.m.
That night the number drawn was “666.”
In May 1981, Perry and Plevel went on trial in Dauphin County Court.
Both men were convicted on May 21, 1981.
Perry was sentenced to 3 to 7 years in prison, Plevel to 2 to 7 years. Each man served two years in prison before being released to a halfway house.
Bock and Luman pleaded guilty for lighter sentences. The Maragos brothers cooperated and testified against Perry and Plevel and did not go to jail.Convicted bookie helped uncover ‘Triple Six Fix’ Pa. lottery scandal 40 years ago This is a photo taken from a television monitor of a video tape of the April 24, 1980 drawing of the Pennsylvania
Lottery number 6-6-6 has players seeing (dollar) signs
The neon-yellow pingpong balls danced inside the lottery machines.
A “six” was the first ball drawn in the Pick 3 game. “Next up, another six,” said the drawing’s host.
When the third ball to emerge in the Sept. 4 drawing was also a six, the Maryland Lottery found itself bedeviled — again — by a set of numbers that players seem to find tantalizing. The $1.75 million payout to players on 6-6-6 was more than 11 times the Pick 3 payout average.
Triple sixes — a horror-film staple with satanic connotations from the New Testament’s Book of Revelation — are among a small set of numbers that players can’t seem to get enough of, according to lottery statistics and interviews with state officials. The sixes are notorious enough in popular culture — and have been drawn enough — to make them stand out, analysts said.Triple sixes – a horror-film staple with satanic connotations in the New Testament Book of Revelation – are among a group of numbers that Maryland lottery players can't seem to get enough of. ]]>