A convicted rapist has been jailed for nine years after faking his way to a multimillion-pound National Lottery win with a counterfeit ticket in a “sophisticated and carefully planned” ruse.
Edward Putman, 54, conspired with a Camelot insider to cheat the system and present a forged slip to claim the outstanding £2.5 million jackpot in 2009.
The ex-builder hatched the plot with friend Giles Knibbs – who then worked in the securities department at the Lottery operator – with the pair submitting a deliberately damaged forgery just before the 180-day limit to stake claims expired.
But the fraud unravelled after Mr Knibbs confessed to friends that he had “conned” the Lottery, before taking his own life after an angry row about how the winnings were divided.
Jurors at St Albans Crown Court found Putman guilty of fraud by false representation on Friday after a two-week trial.
Passing sentence, judge Philip Grey said the “sophisticated, carefully planned, and diligently operated fraud” struck at the heart of the integrity of the National Lottery.
He said: “You would have got away with this but quite plainly you were greedy.
“Whatever the exact monetary split you and Mr Knibbs had agreed, you did not pay him what split he felt he was owed. The two of you fell out spectacularly.
“This crime struck at the integrity of the National Lottery. You have also undermined the public’s trust in the lottery itself.”
The judge said the fact Camelot had been “hoodwinked in this way will of course be damaging to its reputation”.
The genuine winning ticket, which was bought in Worcester, has never been discovered.
Putman, a convicted rapist and benefits cheat, was paid the jackpot by Camelot despite the bottom part of the mangled slip missing the barcode, the trial heard.
Part way through the judge’s remarks, he said “I can’t believe what I’m hearing”.
Despite his multimillion-pound windfall, three years later in 2012 Putman was sentenced to nine months for benefit fraud after claiming £13,000 in welfare support as he splashed out on two sports cars and a new house.
His previous convictions also include the rape of a teenager in the early 1990s, for which he was sentenced to seven years.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it “will take steps to recover his fraudulently acquired winnings.”
A Camelot spokesman said the matter was a “unique, one-off incident over a decade ago”.
He added: “There were some weaknesses in some of the specific controls relevant to this incident at the time and we’re very sorry for that.
“We’ve strengthened our processes significantly since then and are completely confident that an incident of this nature could not happen today.”
Jurors were told the scam began to fall apart after the friendship between former business partners Mr Knibbs and Putman deteriorated.
Mr Knibbs’ behaviour became increasingly erratic and he began revealing details of the fraud to friends after failing to receive what he said was his agreed £1 million share of the prize.
He confronted Putman in a heated argument in June 2015, breaking Putman’s wing mirrors and stealing his phone.
The co-conspirator was subsequently arrested for burglary, blackmail and criminal damage after Putman complained to police.
He later killed himself after fearing he would go down for “10 to 15 years for blackmail”, the trial heard.
Evidence suggested Mr Knibbs was initially paid £280,000 by Putman for his part in the ruse, followed by much smaller increments totalling £50,000.
The fraud began after Mr Knibbs saw documents being printed containing details of big wins which had not yet been claimed while working late one night.
Prosecutor James Keeley said there was “some trial and error” in producing a successful forged ticket, with several different specimens made, each with one of the 100 different possible unique codes on the bottom.
Putman then went to 29 different shops as the clock ticked down to claim the cash, providing a different ticket at each, before the right number was found.
Mr Keeley said Putman, of Station Road, Kings Langley, eventually submitted the correct code at a shop in High Wycombe, on August 28, 2009.
In 2016, the Gambling Commission fined Camelot £3 million for breaching its operating licence regarding controlling databases, investigating prize claims, and paying out prizes.
The court heard this fine went to good causes and projects, replacing the money taken away by Putman’s elaborate fraud.
District Crown Prosecutor Tapashi Nadarajah, for the CPS, said: “Edward Putman deceived the National Lottery operators with his ‘winning’ ticket, making him a millionaire; but his lies unravelled with the tragic death of his co-conspirator who he wasn’t prepared to share the money with.
“We used accounts from Knibbs’ friends, as well as documented evidence on his phone and financial transactions, to build a compelling case against Putman.
“This was further strengthened by indisputable evidence provided by an expert in the scientific examination of questioned documents.
“They found significant differences between the printing on genuine tickets and that on Putman’s ticket, concluding his ticket was not genuine.”
Detective Chief Inspector Sam Khanna, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Serious Fraud and Cyber Unit, said: “The sentence handed out by the judge reflects the serious nature of the offence and the amount of time and resources it has taken to investigate and bring this case to court.
“Putman has illegally obtained a large amount of money he was not entitled to and we will be referring the this case to the Eastern Regional Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize his assets and recover as much of the money as we can.”