His $30M in Lottery Wins Came With a Big Catch

'Atlantic' tells the troubled tale of Michigan's Viktor Gjonaj, now broke and in jail
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2022 7:30 AM CDT
He Won the Lottery Over and Over, Swears by His System
   (Getty / zentilia)

Talk to Viktor Gjonaj, and he'll swear he cracked the lottery system. Starting in 2017, the Michigan real estate broker began collecting pot after pot from daily drawings in the state lottery—nearly $30 million in all, recounts Jeff Maysh in the Atlantic. His "system" is a complicated one, with Gjonaj insisting that his algorithm can predict when certain numbers are likely to come up based on which ones have been recently pulled. But "don’t try to wrap your head around it," says former business associate Gregory Vitto. "He had no system." So how to explain all those lottery wins? As would come out later in court, Gjonaj (with Vitto's help) would routinely spend up to $1 million a week on lottery tickets. And if you buy that many tickets, you're bound to win a lot—but also lose a lot.

As Maysh makes clear, Gjonaj's theory about predicting numbers is mathematical "bunk" given that the state chooses its numbers from a batch of bouncing plastic balls. To fund his insane spending on tickets, Gjonaj "lured investors into real-estate deals that were too good to be true," writes Maysh, sometimes selling multiple investors rights to the same property. But instead of buying real estate with the money coming in, Gjonaj just kept buying more lottery tickets and falling further into debt as the Ponzi-style scheme spiraled out of control. Gjonaj is now serving a 53-month sentence for wire fraud, and he owes duped investors more than $25 million. He's also dead broke, and Maysh ends the piece by noting that despite the brutal lesson, Gjonaj has kept all his lottery charts and spreadsheets and seems destined to one day try again. (Read the full story.)

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