Retired couple reveal how they used math skills and lottery loophole to win $26 million in 9 years
When it comes to retirement, some take the time to do all the leisurely things they just didn't have time for during their working life, while others can't help but fall back into some part-time role or volunteer work. But for this couple, from a small town in Michigan, it was in their later years that they made some serious money.
Jerry, 80, and Marge Selbee, 81, recently sat down with 60 Minutes to tell the story of how they came to earn millions by exploiting a loophole in the lottery. Using what they refer to as "just basic arithmetic," the high school sweethearts managed to win $26 million in less than a decade.
Marge and Jerry used to run a convenience store in Evart, Michigan, but sold the store when they retired in their 60s. In 2003, Jerry returned to the store, where he saw a brochure for a new lottery game called Winfall. Reading into it, the Math major realised he could almost guarantee a profit, all due to the fact that the jackpot rolled down every time the jackpot reached the $5 million cap, unlike most lotteries where the sum would grow and roll on until someone won.
If the Winfall jackpot reached $5 million without a winner with six numbers, those who had five, four, or three winning numbers could cash in. Jerry bought $3,600's worth of tickets, winning $6,300. After that, he bet $8,000 on the scheme and nearly doubled his winnings. Before long, the couple were betting hundreds of thousands of dollars on the technique, and even set up a company to make money for their friends and family.
The Selbees set up G.S. Investment Strategies, offering people the chance to buy into the business for $500 each, where they can then share in the profits made through this scheme. The group eventually grew to the size of 25 members by 2005, but Michigan soon ended Winfall due to a lack of sales.
However, the couple soon found out that there was a lottery called 'Cash WinFall' in Massachusetts where they could use the same technique.
So, Jerry and Marge decided to drive for 14 hours to get to the other state, buy hundreds of thousands of tickets at two convenience stores, then rented a motel room where they spent 10 hours sorting through tickets. They repeated this process for the next six years, before their scheme was discovered in 2011.
It was The Boston Globe who revealed what they were doing, after receiving a tip that certain convenience stores were selling huge amounts of these specific tickets. They found that there were two groups working on the Cash WinFall tickets - the Selbees' group, and a group of math students from MIT who had also figured out the loophole. The state launched their own investigation into what had happened, but the Selbees had not actually broken any laws, and Massachusetts had made quite a bit of money through it too.
However, the lottery decided independently to end the game, which brought a close to the scheme they had conducted for almost 10 years. During this time, Jerry and Marge had won a total of $26 million for their members, making around $8 million in profit before taxes.
It helped pay for the schooling of their six children, 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, as well as some heavy renovations on their house. Now that they've shared their story with the world, we'll be seeing it again soon, as they've optioned the rights for their life story to be turned into a movie.