Two Years after I-Team exposes big lottery winners, improbable wins continue

Lakeland man claims 28 big scratch-off wins
Posted at 9:05 PM, Jun 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-13 21:05:22-04

Over the past two years, our I-Team investigations into problems with lottery payouts led to the suspension of nine different lottery retailers' licenses and changes in the Florida Lottery's security practices.

But we discovered that some Tampa Bay area lottery players are continuing to rack up improbable numbers of wins.

“My heart is beating really fast guys,” says a young woman in a YouTube video scratching a $25 Florida Lottery ticket.

“This is a thousand dollar winner...Omg!” she screams with glee.

A win like that statistically happens only once in 1,153 tries.

But records show Lakeland resident George Kevin Darnell won at least $1,000 playing scratch off games 28 times in six months. He bought all the tickets at Eagle Brooke Sunoco.

When we asked Darnell about his winnings, he denied that he was the one who claimed the prizes.

He also said he never played the lottery.

But the owners of Eagle Brooke Sunoco disagree.

“I know he comes in here and buys tickets, yes,” said Subhash Patel, who runs the store with his wife, Gita.

According to a sign from the Florida Lottery posted at the store, Darnell won at least 8 percent of the store's total lottery winnings last year.

He may have won more, since the state lottery doesn’t track wins under $600 by name and hometown.

“He buys whole rolls sometimes, sometimes $400 or $200,” Patel said.

But statistically, he would have to spend $17,000 on scratch-off tickets to ensure that number of wins.

Greg Henderson, who teaches math and statistics at Hillsborough County Community College, says someone would have to buy about 30 rolls of tickets at a cost of $1,000 a roll to insure winning a $1,000 scratch-off prize.

“The probability would be enormously small, fantastically small to have that string of wins,” Henderson said.

Last July 21, Darnell cashed in six $1,000 winning scratch-off tickets and one $5,000 winning ticket, with odds of 1 in 60,000.

On Sept. 14, he redeemed 17  $1,000 winning tickets, and another $5,000 win.

Henderson says to calculate the odds of consecutive lottery wins, you multiply the odds against each other by the number of wins.

“It's a truly tiny number, a truly tiny probability," Henderson said.

The probability of Darnell getting so many consecutive wins if he got them all at once would be represented by a decimal --- followed by 84 zeros --- then a one, much lower than the chances of winning the current multi-state Mega Millions jackpot.

It's nothing new for people to have high numbers of scratch-off wins in Florida.

Last year, we told you how Polk County store owner Jamil Hamad won 45 times, collecting $88,000.

The lottery investigated but couldn't prove wrongdoing.

Since then, he's won 20 more times, claiming another $53,000.

We also uncovered Chirag Parmar and his mom won 47 times before the Florida Lottery suspended sales in his seven Pinellas County convenience stores.

He hasn't won since.

George Kevin Darnell doesn't own a store, but does own a bookkeeping and accounting business and a cardboard recycling plant.

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