My first experience with "serious" fraud was in grammar school. I had advance knowledge and just sat and watched the whole thing come off.

I was either in Fifth or Sixth Grade. My next door neighbor Paul was two years older, and Harry further up the block was in high school. Harry had one of those dream jobs: he worked as an usher at the local theatre for the Saturday kid matinees. It was a dream job because he got to see all the movies for free, and got paid to boot.

This theatre occasionally had giveaways to boost the audience. Well this one time they announced they were giving away a free bicycle (a real stunner) to someone in attendance. All you had to do was be in the theatre with a paid ticket. Of course they announced it for weeks and come the appointed Saturday, the place was packed. Kids were even sitting in the aisles as there were no serious fire regulations. There must have been 400 kids there, every one of which dreamed he was going to win that bike.

I sat next to Paul who told me in advance he was going to win. After the first show (the Saturday kid event was always a double-feature), the manager got up on stage with Harry the usher holding the giant bowl with all the tickets. Harry draws the winning ticket and gives it to the manager, who read out the number. Paul jumps up shouting "I won, I won". The next day Harry was riding around the neighborhood with his new bike. I was too young to inquire about the quid pro quo between Paul and Harry, or even perhaps between the manager and Harry. And of course I was in awe.

In many ways it was beauty in its execution. Not unlike the time the former First Lady of Arkansas used the futures markets to bag a payoff. But that's another story. Here's what made me think of the bicycle giveaway long ago:

Today I saw a news item that if no one wins the current $600+ million lottery and perhaps the next upcoming one, then the jackpot could be $1 billion. With this being the Christmas season, there could not be a better time to avoid anyone winning to run the jackpot up to all-time highs. All those people hoping and praying to hit the big one. All the promoters have to do is look into their computers to find unpurchased numbers for several weeks.

Now I'm not suggesting that they give the winning ticket to one of their buddies, like Harry and Paul arranged with the bicycle. But this could all be done with the goal of redistribution of wealth from those who purchase lotto tickets to the tax coffers of the states, who of course get most of the winnings. The individual winner himself does not matter, he's just window dressing.

Just thinking out loud.


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