Lender

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Con­necti­cut -

his agency to “re­buke” the au­di­tors’ find­ings.

“I am go­ing to ig­nore that let­ter in its en­tirety as sort of a failed at­tempt to sway me away from the real facts and in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion. And I thought (the au­di­tors) went le­nient on them, frankly. They punted the ball (on the ques­tion of re­tal­i­a­tion against DuPuis) to the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights and Op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

‘Whis­per­ing in his ear’

“They let them off, I think, lightly,” Fasano said. “And now this new guy has in­serted him­self in facts that he has no first­hand knowl­edge of. It’s facts he’s learn­ing about from the in­sid­ers who were in­volved. … He could say, ‘It’s a new leg­is­la­ture and a new gover­nor, and let’s move on,’ but in­stead, he in­serts him­self in facts he has no knowl­edge about, prob­a­bly from peo­ple whis­per­ing in his ear.”

Ver­ren­gia, for his part, said: “The au­di­tors’ re­port and (the lot­tery’s) re­sponse are not the end-all to our in­quiry. I am con­fi­dent that ad­di­tional pub­lic hear­ings will be held in the near fu­ture.” He said the hear­ings prob­a­bly would be early next year, adding: “It’s on the front burner.”

And so wel­come to Con­necti­cut, Greg Smith — who learned a day af­ter send­ing his let­ter, if he didn’t know al­ready, what a high-volt­age wire he had touched. Told of the law­mak­ers’ com­ments, Tara Chozet, the lot­tery’s di­rec­tor of pub­lic re­la­tions and so­cial me­dia, said only: “We pro­vided in­for­ma­tion that we did not see in­cluded in the (au­di­tors’) Novem­ber 2 re­port.”

Smith was not the only let­ter writer from the lot­tery with re­gard to the au­di­tors’ re­port to Ver­ren­gia and Fasano. Don DeFronzo, the chair­man of the lot­tery’s board of di­rec­tors, wrote to Ger­agosian and Kane on Nov. 8, stat­ing that although they sug­gested there was “no ba­sis for the find­ing of ne­glect” against DuPuis, “In fact, I be­lieve the de­tailed … in­ter­nal re­port (by the lot­tery’s ad­min­is­tra­tion ear­lier this year) con­sti­tutes a fac­tual ba­sis and ra­tio­nale for the find­ings of neg­li­gence.”

DeFronzo also re­it­er­ated to the au­di­tors his pub­lic state­ments that DuPuis hasn’t been the vic­tim of re­tal­i­a­tion for hav­ing told the pre­vi­ous lot­tery CEO, Anne No­ble, in 2015 of the 5 Card Cash game’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to fraud by peo­ple in re­tail lot­tery out­lets. (Peo­ple in such Con­necti­cut out­lets fig­ured out how to com­pro­mise the game, which ul­ti­mately re­sulted in 15 ar­rests).

“When you reach the un­sub­stan­ti­ated con­clu­sion that a charge of gross ne­glect ‘could have’ re­sulted from ar­bi­trary or re­tal­ia­tory mo­tives, I would con­tend that the facts and record … just as likely lead to a con­clu­sion that these ac­tions may not have been the re­sult of re­tal­i­a­tion, but rather from the spec­i­fied per­for­mance con­cerns,” DeFronzo wrote.

As for Smith’s let­ter to the two leg­is­la­tors Tues­day, he down­played the sig­nif­i­cance of what DuPuis had said about 5 Card Cash’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to com­pro­mise.

“The ac­tual prob­lems … en­coun­tered with 5 Card Cash that ul­ti­mately led to the crim­i­nal con­vic­tion of cer­tain re­tail­ers were not re­lated to the con­cerns raised by Mr. DuPuis to Ms. No­ble prior to the launch of the game,” Smith wrote. “Fred DuPuis did raise a well-known con­cern about the 5 Card Cash game while it was be­ing eval­u­ated as a prod­uct be­fore it was sold in Con­necti­cut. The vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties he pointed out con­cerned the po­ten­tial for re­tail­ers to quickly read the tick­ets be­fore hand­ing them to cus­tomers and mak­ing the de­ci­sion to keep the ticket for them­selves — re­ferred to as ‘palm­ing.’ ”

‘Not novel or new’

But Smith said that DuPuis’ “com­ments about ‘palm­ing’ were not novel or new,” and that “ev­ery lot­tery con­sid­ers this and takes some ac­tion to ad­dress it.”

The 5 Card Cash game was com­pro­mised in Con­necti­cut when em­ploy­ees at lot­tery re­tail out­lets fig­ured out a way to print out win­ning tick­ets for them­selves by slow­ing down the gam­ing ter­mi­nal’s print­ing with re­peated com­mands — to the point where a dis­play on the ma­chine told them which num­bers would be on the next tick­ets printed.

Smith then turned to the Jan. 1 dis­as­ter — in which a five-mem­ber team that ran the com­put­er­ized num­ber se­lec­tion used a brief “check­list” in­stead of a full set of il­lus­trated in­struc­tions, and en­tered a range of ticket num­bers that omit­ted 100,000 tick­ets from the range of po­ten­tial win­ners.

“Mr. DuPuis’ sup­port and par­tic­i­pa­tion in the de­vel­op­ment and use of an un­ap­proved check­list for the CT Su­per Draw were clear er­rors in ex­e­cut­ing his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” Smith wrote. “The check­list that he and his staff pre­pared was miss­ing criti- cal con­tent that was the ba­sis for the er­ror that oc­curred. His clearly doc­u­mented de­vel­op­ment and ap­proval of the check­list and in­struc­tions for its use were di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for the er­ror that oc­curred.”

Nei­ther DuPuis nor the lot­tery’s act­ing CEO at the time, Chelsea Turner, were present — nor were they re­quired to be — at the Jan. 1 draw­ing that was run by sub­or­di­nates of DuPuis and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the state Depart­ment of Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion, which over­sees reg­u­la­tion of state lot­tery games. Turner, orig­i­nally hired by CEO No­ble in 2010, is now top deputy to Smith at the lot­tery.

As a re­sult of the Jan. 1 prob­lem, a doover draw­ing had to be held in mid-Jan­uary. There was a $1 mil­lion loss to the state, as well as dis­ci­plinary ac­tions in­clud­ing un­paid sus­pen­sions against lower-rank­ing em­ploy­ees of both the lot­tery and con­sumer pro­tec­tion depart­ment who mis­han­dled the draw­ing.

The big, lin­ger­ing re­sult of the Jan. 1 prob­lem is a pend­ing “whistle­blower com­plaint” by DuPuis to the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights and Op­por­tu­ni­ties that lot­tery of­fi­cials’ al­le­ga­tion against him of “gross ne­glect” stemmed from a vendetta over his role three years ago in ex­pos­ing the fraud in the 5 Card Cash game.

Present and for­mer lot­tery of­fi­cials have de­nied the claims that DuPuis makes in the com­plaint he filed in May with the CHRO — which has sched­uled a hear­ing/trial in April. Jon Lender is a re­porter on The Courant’s in­ves­tiga­tive desk, with a fo­cus on gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics. Con­tact him at jlen­der @courant.com, 860-241-6524, or c/o The Hart­ford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hart­ford, CT 06115 and find him on Twit­ter @jon­len­der.

Smith

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