Shortly after 7pm on April 24 th, 1980, millions of Pennsylvanians saw intently as a third and final ping-pong ball soared television of a device on live television.
” And there you have it,” exclaimed the station’s cherished announcer, Nick Perry. “Today’s Pennsylvania lotto everyday number: 6-6-6!”
As the cheesy music faded and the lights dimmed, Perry urged lucky ticket holders in the house to declare their rewards: “ If you’ve got it, come and get it!“
What the general public didn’t understand was that Perry– in addition to a rag-tag group comprised of co-workers, church buddies, and a state lottery authorities– had fixed the whole thing in his favor. Through a fancy ploy involving syringes and latex paint, he ‘d simply netted himself and his partners $1.2 m ($ 3.7 m today) in winning tickets.
Soon, one of the biggest scandals in state lottery game history would come crashing down.
Celebrity News The legend of Papa Nick
In the late 1970 s, Nick Perry (genuine name, Nicholas Katsafanas) was Pittsburgh royalty.
A radio and TV veteran of 30 years, Perry was affable, charming, and debonair– high and tan, with blended white hair and an ever-present ivory smile.
As a commentator and host for WTAE Channel 4– Pittsburgh’s leading TV station, and among the largest local networks in the nation– his programs ( Polka Celebration, Champion Bowling, Bowling for Dollars) drew in legions of adoring fans who called him “Papa Nick.”
A Navy veterinarian and church choir leader, he held the public’s undeviating trust. “He was always surrounded by individuals who liked him,” a previous co-worker later stated.
When Pennsylvania released its day-to-day lotto, in 1977, WTAE won the rights to broadcast the illustrations state-wide every night.
And the station might think about no better guy to entrust as the illustration’s commentator than Pittsburgh’s golden kid, Nick Perry.
Celebrity News The Daily Number
Called the Daily Number, the draw rapidly became the most popular lottery video game in the state– and one of the 5 biggest in America. Its earnings, which soared to hundreds of millions of dollars, were the chief earnings source for funding senior person programs.
The lottery itself was easy.
An entrant would purchase a ticket staking anywhere from $0.50 to $5 on a 3-digit number between 000 and 999, in a specific order.
Every night at 6: 59 pm, a lottery authorities would wheel out 3 air-powered makers, each filled with a set of ping-pong balls numbered 0 to 9. On live television, a senior resident (chosen at random from a regional senior house) would eliminate the cap from the top of each device, propelling a random numbered ball up a clear plastic chute.
The resulting 3-digit mix was the day-to-day winner. Lucky entrants would get $500 for each $1 bet. (In those days, bets were pretty humble; most payments were in the thousands, not millions, of dollars.)
Like many lottos at the time, the Daily Number followed a tight security protocol.
When not in use, the lotto machines and balls were locked in a WTAE storeroom that required 2 secrets to open; one was held by the TELEVISION station, the other by the state’s lottery game bureau. The balls were regularly analyzed by an independent laboratory, and were just permitted to have a 1.75 milligram variation in mass– about half the weight of an ant.
As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as soon as wrote, Pennsylvania lottery game’s reputation “matched that of ancient Rome’s Vestal Virgins.” The state prided itself on the spotless credibility of its everyday illustration, which of Perry, the male at its helm.
But unbeknownst to them, Perry was inspecting flaws in the system– and looking for an opportunity to exploit it.
Celebrity News The plan
In February of 1980, Perry sparked a friendship with Edward Plevel, a 52- year-old state lottery security officer who was delegated with securing the makers and balls.
When a mutual trust was established, Perry thoroughly brought up the possibility of a repaired lottery game: In theory, he told Plevel, if he had access to the storeroom, he might weigh down all the balls other than a few numbers, significantly minimize the possible winning combinations, hedge heavy bets on those numbers, and leave with millions.
Plevel was intrigued, and accepted provide Perry the access he needed. Right after, Perry started to put his strategy into action.
The primary step was to discover somebody he trusted who could produce reproduction sets of the lottery game balls. For this, he turned to WTAE’s ex-art director and resident lettering expert, Joseph Bock.
” What would you say if I informed you could make $100 k?” Perry supposedly asked Bock at the station one day, according to a later account in the Post-Gazette
Bock scoffed. “Who do I have to kill?”
Perry offered Bock 12 syringes and a weighing scale and instructed him to purchase 30 ping-pong balls from a sporting goods shop identical to those utilized in the devices.
Following Perry’s instructions, Bock meticulously replicated each ball by hand– 3 sets, numbered 0 through 9. Then, he set out to discover a subtle way to weigh down the balls that weren’t a 4 or a 6.
After try out numerous substances consisting of talcum powder and water, he chose a small amount of white latex paint– just enough to prevent them from rising up to the top of the makers and getting drawn up into the chutes.
In an untampered lottery, the chances of any 3-digit number were 1 in 1k. If Perry’s plan worked, just the unweighted fours and sixes would rise to the top, limiting the winning number to 8 possible mixes: 444, 446, 464, 466, 644, 646, 664, and 666.
Everything was in place. Now, all Perry required to do was place his bets.
Perry couldn’t purchase lottery game tickets himself– it was too suspicious. So, he met 2 childhood good friends, Peter and Jack Maragos, at a pew in St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.
Part-owners of a small cigarette vending maker service, the Maragos siblings were intrigued by the adventure of a big payment. They accepted purchase the tickets, and quickly roped a 3rd sibling, James, and his spouse, Jean, into the scheme.
The family unit entrusted the stores where they ‘d buy tickets, and put together $20 k in money. Then, they waited for Perry’s command.
Celebrity News The special day
On the morning of April 24, 1980, the Maragos bros soared around Philadelphia in an old white Cadillac.
Targeting small mom-and-pop outlets– locations with names like Al and Virginia’s Variety Store, Herman’s Stogie Shop, Squirrel Hill Newsstand, and Dew Drop Inn– they positioned countless $1 bets on the 8 possible mixes of 4 and 6.
Meanwhile, Perry finalized his preparations at the studio.
Normally, the senior person chosen to help with the lottery game would run through a practice illustration at 6: 30 pm, 29 minutes prior to airing. That day, Violet Lowrey, the picked octogenarian, was carted into a green room upon arrival and remained there until 6: 55.
Throughout this time, Bock handed off the weighted balls to another employee in on the repair, stagehand Fred Luman, who furtively swapped them into the machines as Plevel looked the other method.
Once the task was done, Luman rolled the makers out onto the studio flooring, gave a nod to Perry, and disappeared into the shadows of the corridor.
At 6: 59, the broadcast went live.
To millions of viewers across Pennsylvania, nothing appeared uncommon. Perry was introduced with his typical sign-on– ” The guy with all the dollars! The kingpin himself!” — and Plevel accompanied Lowrey to the devices.
Lowrey removed the cap and the very first ball shot up the chute: a 6. Then came ball # 2: “Another 6!” exclaimed Perry. Seconds later on, the third ball landed. The winning number– 6-6-6– danced across the screen.
A half-hour later, Bock was back in the house, lighting fire to a paint can filled with the 30 weighted ping-pong balls.
Celebrity News A gangster provides a pointer
It seemed that Perry and his cronies had managed the best crime.
The Maragos had selected 6-6-6 on roughly 2.4 k of their 14 k $1 tickets. With a $500 to $1 payment, the crew was taking a look at a payment of $ 1.2 m($ 3.9 m in 2019 dollars)– an unheard-of quantity for a state lottery game at the time. Over the next couple of days, the bros cashed in a few hundred tickets and delivered Perry $35 k in money– once at a cemetery, a second time behind a shopping mall.
Unbeknownst to them, there were rumblings on the street that the game had actually been fixed.
As it turned out, the Maragos bros had actually also placed bets with underground bookmakers, who had observed the uncommonly high variety of hedges on combinations containing the numbers 4 and 6. They refused to pay profits on 6-6-6, and notified their boss, Tony Grosso
A founded guilty numbers employer, Grosso had actually been running his own $30 m-a-year prohibited everyday lottery game on the streets of Pittsburgh for 40 years– and he was delighted to tip-off local press reporter, Sandy Starobin, of a possible fix in the state lotto, which he thought about the competition.
In Might 1980, an examination was opened by Pennsylvania guv, Richard Thornburgh.
Though lotto officials (including Plevel) pooh-poohed the concept of a within job, investigators received a pointer from the owner of the Dew Drop Inn: Weeks previously, 2 males in a white Cadillac had actually purchased numerous lotto tickets– all combinations of 4 and 6– and put a call to a mystery man.
The paper path and phone records led them to the door of Peter and Jack Maragos, who promptly accepted testify for the state in exchange for dropped charges. Bock and Luman followed and gave the state two names: Perry and Plevel.
On May 11, 1981, reporters (including Perry’s coworkers at WTAE) collected at the county courthouse in Harrisburg for a criminal trial against the two men.
Over a week, 25 witnesses— consisting of co-conspirators, store owners, and angry seniors– took the stand. After 6.5 hours of consideration, a jury of 12 found Perry and Plevel guilty of criminal conspiracy, criminal mischief, theft by deception, and “rigging a publicly displayed contest.”
Neither guy showed feeling as the sentences read: 3 to 7 years for Perry; 2 to 7 years for Plevel.
As the tanned TV star was led from the courtroom in shackles, his fans come to grips with the news. “[It’s like] Joan of Arc being burned at the stake,” one fan wrote in a Post-Gazette op-ed “I can’t see why a 63- year-old male who has a good living and is established in the neighborhood would do something like this.”
Celebrity News The bowling goods salesman
In the after-effects, WTAE lost the rights to air the daily lottery game to a competing station, costing it millions of dollars in lost advertisement revenue. Eventually, authorities would recuperate the majority of the cash and uncashed lottery game tickets.
Bock, Luman, and the Maragos siblings faded from the public eye after 1981 and settled into quiet, less eventful lives. After serving 18 months, Perry and Plevel were released to a midway home.
Post-prison, Perry discovered work at Wissman Bowling Materials, a bowling outfitter that had provided devices to his hit show, Bowling for Dollars In 1988, he made a short-term go back to TELEVISION to host a brand-new bowling program, however he never ever recovered his previous glory.
When Perry died in 2003, at age 86, he was remembered with a two-page spread in the Post-Gazette He preserved his innocence to the tomb.
” Why would I get involved with something like this? For what reason?” he said in a last interview “I was making great cash. They were the finest years of my life, in fact. I had too many advantages choosing me.”
The Daily Number game, because relabelled the “Select 3,” now features a security procedure including 24- hour video monitoring, RFID-chip-equipped balls, independent auditors, and no less than 6 drawing officials. It brought in $269 m in earnings for the state of Pennsylvania in 2018.
Because April 24, 1980, 6-6-6 has actually been the winning number on 24 events— all supposedly scandal-free.
And Pennsylvania lottery authorities have because embraced an informal slogan: “Be perfect.”
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