|Timothy Elliott's ticket purchase violated his probation terms. (Massachusetts State Lottery via ap)|
His odds of winning $1 million on a scratch ticket were 1 in 1,247,400.
His odds of being busted if he won? A pretty safe bet.
Timothy Elliott - the lucky buyer of a $1 million scratch ticket in the $800 Million Spectacular game - is a two-time bank robber whose lottery ticket purchase last week violated the terms of his probation. Last year, when he pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery, the 55-year-old Hyannis man was ordered "to not gamble, purchase lottery tickets, or visit establishments where gaming is conducted, including restaurants where Keno may be played," according to his probation from Barnstable Superior Court.
So two days after a trip to the winner's circle in the lottery's Braintree headquarters, where he claimed the first $50,000 of his payout - about $35,000 after taxes - Elliott earned himself another court date. A hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 7 in Barnstable Superior Court to determine the penalties for violating his probation - and, perhaps, what happens to the winnings.
"This has not happened before, as far as we know," said Dan Rosenfeld, the lottery's communications director. "It's new territory."
It was unclear yesterday precisely what prompted the no-gambling order; Elliott's court-appointed lawyer did not return calls. But Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe said that such conditions are often ordered for suspects who contend their gambling debts drove them to commit their crimes.
Elliott has faced charges for two bank robberies since 2001. He was convicted of armed robbery and larceny in 2001 and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in the Barnstable County House of Correction. And last year, he pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery at a Cape Cod bank, which led to the anti-gambling order as well as a requirement that he undergo treatment through the Department of Mental Health.
He was being evaluated and treated at Taunton State Hospital until August, when he was allowed to leave his treatment facility unsupervised during the day. Last Friday, he bought a $10 lottery ticket at a Hyannis Super Stop & Shop and found himself a big winner.
Before paying out prizes, lottery officials screen winners for evidence of unpaid taxes, liens, or delinquent child support. But they don't invalidate a winner with a criminal record - or scour court documents for probation orders that might prohibit gambling.
"Winners are winners," Rosenfeld said. "We treat them the way winners should be treated."
Prosecutors had sought a tougher sentence for Elliott's 2006 unarmed robbery, O'Keefe said.
"What we thought should have happened back when the individual was sentenced was that he be sentenced to prison for four to five years at Cedar Junction for robbing a bank," O'Keefe said. "A judge decided to put him on probation." As a result, the district attorney was unsympathetic to Elliott's reversal of fortune.
"I suppose that there are more deserving people that you see every day who apparently don't have the luck that this individual has," he said.
Managers at the Super Stop & Shop refused to comment yesterday, but outside the store, opinions were strong.
"That's absurd!" said Edina Russ, of Yarmouthport. "Whatever he had done in the past has nothing to do with his life today. He didn't steal that ticket. That's his money."
But John Derendinger Jr. of Hyannis said fair is fair.
"If he's on probation, then he shouldn't gamble as a violation of probation," said Derendinger, who was ringing a bell for the Salvation Army. "And he shouldn't be able to get the winnings."
Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org