A Minnesota woman allegedly won at least $117,000 by running an illegal Facebook lottery resembling Powerball and tried to cover up her attempts to sue her after receiving a warning from the Hibbing Police Department.
Kathryn Jean Deblack, 39, of Hibbing, Minnesota, faces multiple charges for running an illegal lottery and winning $117,000 in just ten months.
Investigators said Deblack deceived more than 200 people into believing their entry fees were going to charity. Participants purchased numbered places to win brand-new items at a lower cost, with winners chosen by a random number generator.
Deblack strongly urged participants to avoid any language that suggested their activities were related to gambling.
The Lottery reported that Deblack was involved in illegal drawings on a Facebook page called “Iron Range Razzles,” according to a criminal complaint. On April 13, 2021, the Minnesota Gaming Control Board alerted the state’s Division of Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement after discovering his social media activity.
“VENMO PAYMENTS MUST HAVE AN EMOJI IN THE DESCRIPTION, not a drawing please,” Deblack wrote in a Facebook post, The Lottery said. “I was informed that they might lock the account because they might be concerned it was gambling.”
After being told by an investigator that her sweepstakes were illegal, Deblack confidently defended herself by saying the prizes had been donated to “Operation 120,” a reputable nonprofit.
Hibbing police contacted Operation 120 to verify whether Deblack had kept his promise. However, they discovered she had only made one donation and had not followed up with the charity after expressing her intention to check legal requirements.
Deblack received a disciplinary warning from the prosecutor, who said the case would be closed and treated as a learning opportunity for Deblack.
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On November 21, 2021, gaming enforcement investigators received another complaint, reopening the case. Deblack was accused of selling 100 tickets at $120 each for a chance to win her 2018 Grizzly 700 Special Edition ATV. To enter, individuals could make payments via PayPal or Venmo. A random drawing would determine the winner of the ATV, with the first name selected receiving the prize. A second name would be drawn for a second prize of $500. Additionally, Deblack has committed to donating $1,000 to the Schnorr Mudfest event. All these details were described in a video she shared on her Facebook page, as reported by The Lottery Post.
Deblack initially denied the ATV raffle, but later admitted to using the proceeds to pay off the ATV loan and donating $1,000 to Fishing With Vets. A Fishing With Vets board member said he never authorized the drawing because the nonprofit “does things by the book.”
Deblack wrote an email to the agent saying, “I’m sorry, and I just thought that if the profit went to (charity) it was considered charitable gambling. You’ve clarified all of that yesterday. What can I do to avoid getting in trouble here? I feel sick about this.
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One last game with “Razz Queen”
Less than four hours before sending that email to the investigator, detectives said Deblack created another private Facebook page called “IRR” to continue conducting illegal gambling activities.
She called herself “Razz Queen” on her new page and bought new products to raffle off for a profit. For example, she once sold tickets for $20 each to 20 people for an item she had purchased for $100.
During the investigation, police discovered that some records from Deblack’s original Facebook page had been deleted. However, they determined that Deblack held at least 25 sweepstakes between December 2021 and February 2022. The sweepstakes group had 167 members and most discussions revolved around how to join the lottery. Deblack herself has expressed concerns about avoiding detection.
Deblack was accused of running a lottery on 12 occasions. She faces up to 12 years in prison and a $36,000 fine if convicted. She is scheduled to appear in court on October 9, 2023.