The FBI is investigating allegations of bribery and conflict of interest in connection with the D.C. lottery board's award of contracts to run various aspects of the city's multimillion-dollar legal lottery games, sources familiar with the investigation said yesterday.
The investigation is attempting to determine whether any payoffs or gifts were given in return for favorable treatment by the city agency, sources said.
Investigators are looking into specific allegations, sources said, but they added that it is too early to know whether the allegations would lead to criminal charges.
The lottery board within the last year has awarded two major contracts, one to run the instant lottery game, which began last August, and another to operate the daily numbers game, scheduled to begin sometime this fall. The games are expected to gross a total of $220 million a year.
Chester C. Carter, the board's executive director, said yesterday that in the past two weeks FBI agents have interviewed him and two other staff members, Willis Johnson, the board's deputy director, and Douglass Gordon, a special assistant to the board who preceded Carter as executive director.
Carter, who became executive director in January, said the agents asked for the names of lottery employes, including those who were employed when the staff was assembled early last year. Carter said he did not know what the agents were looking into.
Sources said that the FBI has also questioned officials of the city's Office of Campaign Finance, which oversees the city's conflict-of-interest laws. The campaign finance office is currently conducting a separate inquiry into whether a former staff member of the lottery board violated city conflict-of-interest rules by accepting a trip to Brazil paid for by a firm involved in a lottery contract.
Lottery board chairman Brant Coopersmith said yesterday that he was not aware of any FBI investigation. He said he was confident that the board had acted properly in awarding contracts.
Board member Lillian C. Wiggins said yesterday that FBI agents came to her home Monday morning and questioned her about a fur coat she owns and asked to see it.
Wiggins said she told the agents she would first have to discuss the request with her attorney, Clinton Chapman. Wiggins said she met with the agents a second time, accompanied by Chapman, and showed them the coat. She said the agents also wanted to know how she got the coat.
In an interview yesterday, Wiggins said she purchased the coat earlier this year from Rosendorf-Evans furriers in downtown Washington. Wiggins said she is now assembling her purchase records and plans to turn them over to the FBI.
Wiggins' term on the board expired in June, but she is continuing to serve until her replacement is confirmed by the City Council.
Last month, Wiggins made public a letter sent to lottery officials alleging that she had used her public job for personal gain, and included in the letter was an allegation that she had improperly acquired a fur coat. Wiggins denied the letter's allegations and said she had been unable to identify the letter's author.
Yesterday, Wiggins speculated that one possible reason the FBI might be interested in the coat is that she bought it the same day she had a luncheon date with two officials of LaMancha Inc., the company that has the advertising contract for the city's instant lottery game. One LaMancha official, Teresa Suter, who runs the company and owns a majority of its stock, met her at the furriers, Wiggins said.
Teresa Suter's husband, William N. Suter III, is the leading partner in Games Production Inc. (GPI), the joint venture that has the contract for the city's instant lottery game. GPI in turn hired LaMancha to do the instant lottery's advertising.
The D.C. Office of Inspector General is conducting a separate probe into LaMancha's handling of more than $2 million paid to LaMancha for lottery advertising.