Australian resident Stefan Mandel is the most successful lottery player in history. Mandel, who was born in Romania, devised a trick to win the lottery. The trick required building an investors network to generate massive amounts of betting cash. Over a decade, Mandel’s schemes worked 14 times in four different countries: Australia, the UK, the United States, and Romania.
Mr. Mandel was a successful economist in Romania during the communist era. Living in the final years of the reign of the notorious dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, the economist struggled to provide a living for his family. Mandel described the system as one of food shortages, job shortages, poverty, and “profound misery”.
Even as a well-educated economist, Stefan Mandel made the equivalent of $88 a month. Needing to “get some serious money, quickly,” the self-described philosopher-economist came up with a scheme to beat a lottery. Because it was the time before the mega-lotteries, the scheme worked…14 times.
After he moved to Australia, Mandel told a Romanian newspaper, “I’m a weekend mathematician, an accountant without too much education. But mathematics properly applied can guarantee a fortune.”
Lottery Player Devised Plan to Win Automatically
Stefan Mandel devised an algorithm which predicted 5 of the 6 winning numbers. He then found two “friends” — investors — who agreed to bankroll his lottery scheme. He told the investors he could guarantee them 2nd place.
With the scheme, he won the Romanian lottery outer and pocketed over $19 thousand. His profits were $4 thousand after expenses, which were more than enough to bribe officials, get a flight out of the country, and flee the country.
He roamed the free parts of Europe for four years, then relocated his family to Australia. Once settled, he was free to target bigger lotteries. Mandel discovered that some lotteries had fewer possible ticket combos than jackpots.
Devised a Lottery Algorithm
These progressive jackpots grew so large they gave the player an advantage, if a person had the resources to buy enough tickets. Using an algorithm based on “computational condensation”, Mandel built a system for placing second in major lotteries.
The math whiz also built a network of investors, because state and national lotto games required pool resources to cover the huge bets. Mandel devised an automated way to print lottery tickets, which became the lynch pin of a “lottery syndicate”.
During the Eighties, Mandel’s syndicate waited until lottery draws swelled to a point bettors had a theoretical edge. Then the syndicate bought enough tickets to assure a 2nd place finish.
Required Lotteries with Prizes 3x the Cost
Mandel planted scouts throughout North America to scout for lotto draws with prizes at least 3x the cost of tickets. He had agents in Montreal, Boston, Norfolk, Miami, and Phoenix spotting good draws to enter.
Using this method, Mandel won 12 lottos in the United Kingdom and Australia. The gaming ring also won $400,000 in smaller prizes — a key bridge until big winnings happened.
Fateful 1992 Virginia Lottery
He considered the Massachusetts and Arizona lotteries, but settled on the Virginia Lottery as his 14th target. It boasted several advantages. One, it was new. Two, it had only 44 numbers. This limited the number of unique tickets to 7.1 million, while most lotteries had 25 million number combinations.
Virginia lottery players could legally print and fill out their tickets at home, which made it easier to pull off the scheme. In February 1992, the Virginia Lottery grew to $27 million, which was a huge amount at the time.
The schedule of the Virginia Lottery gave him (and anyone else) three days before the next draw. Using 30 computers and 12 laser printers, Mandel printed up the millions of tickets needed. He hired Virginia’s Anithalee Alex Jr. to hire an army of accountants to take the tickets to Virginia storefronts to buy the tickets.
Bought 80% of the Lotto’s Tickets
During the first two days, the plan went according to Hoyle. Eventually, one of the stores stopped selling tickets to Mandel’s syndicate. That left between 5 million and 6 millions in Mandel’s hands, but still a roughly 20% chance the lottery wouldn’t go his way.
Anithalee Alex told a tv show at the time, How Did They Do That?, “We had five guys looking through the boxes for the ticket. When the $27 million ticket came up, everybody was six feet off the ground.”
FBI Investigated Stefan Mandel
They also won hundreds of thousands of dollars in lesser prizes from other tickets. Unfortunately, scoring in America got too much attention. The FBI and the Australian Securities Commission investigated Stefan Mandel’s scheme. Virginia Lottery Director Ken Thorson complained to the Washington Post, “We might remember Thomas Jefferson’s view of a lottery, that it is an opportunity for the common man to spend a small sum for the possibility of a higher prize.”
Once the probe completed, they deemed the scheme legal. (Laws changed and now it’s illegal to buy every single ticket.) Investors in the lotto plan didn’t get rich. For their $4000 investment, they each received $1,400 in profits. Stefan Mandel collected a $1.7 million consultant’s fee.
Stefan Mandel’s Later Career
The spotlight became too great after the Virginia lottery win. By 1993, Stefan Mandel tried to found his own lottery company in Gibraltar, but it didn’t work. Later, he spent time in prison in Israel for fraud.
Once he got out of prison, Stefan Mandel moved from Australia. When the Washington Post caught up to him in 2016, he was living quietly on a South Pacific island.
These days, the methods Stefan Mandel used to win the lottery 14 times no longer work. Lotto drawings sometimes increase to 3 times the cost of buying a ticket, but not often. With know-how and legal fine tuning, pooling resources to buy every single ticket is not legal.