Powerball hoax used trucking industry as part of trick

| 2/24/2006

When Bob Pagano, an unemployed truck driver from Colorado, came forward with what he claimed was the winning ticket in the $365 million Powerball Lottery drawing, it looked like fate had finally smiled on one member of the trucking industry.

Except there were a few problems.

Pagano claimed he’d picked his winning numbers, while officials with Powerball said the winning ticket’s numbers had been computer-selected. Pagano also showed a photocopy of the ticket to the press with a purchase date of Sunday, Feb. 17 printed on it. However, Sunday fell on Feb. 19, and the drawing was on Saturday, Feb. 18.

Oh, and there were a few other small problems – Pagano wasn’t a real person, he wasn’t from Colorado, and he was never a trucker.

In reality, Bob Pagano’s real name is Bob Pagani, a former radio DJ and book editor form Pacific City, OR. Pagani got involved with the elaborate hoax – in which he bought dinner for a diner full of people in Lincoln, NE, after claiming to have the winning ticket – through one of his cohorts, Alan Abel, a man well-known for staging high-profile practical jokes, according to media reports.

Pagani’s trick made the media swarm. He was interviewed on several major networks and programs, including ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

As the dust settles on the largest Powerball drawing in history, the public has learned that eight employees at a meat-packing plant in Lincoln, NE, split the prize for an estimated $15.5 million each, after taxes. But for a short period of time, both the public and the news media were fooled by a prankster named Pagano.

Even though the prank frustrated many, Pagani said it did bring a little bit of joy to those around him when he spent $2,000 buying lunch for everyone in the crowded restaurant.

“We spent a lot of money buying people’s lunches. They had a thrill … nobody got hurt,” Pagani told the Omaha World-Herald. “It’s kind of like a magic trick – a magician lies to you.”

And while Pagani’s victory was just a hoax, the lottery has been favorable to truckers in the past. In 1997, Charlie Jasmer, a trucker from Minnesota, claimed a $5 million Powerball prize. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, he quit his job the very next day – but has since gone back to work as the owner of his own construction company.

“You can’t just stop and spend your time in a bar 24 hours a day,” Jasmer said.