Embezzler's addiction lets him repay firm

GIRARD — A former radio executive who admitted that he embezzled to support an addiction to scratch-off lottery tickets found out during his preliminary hearing that he had won a $96,000 lottery prize.

Prosecutors said the money won by Paul W. Lyle will go toward paying restitution to his former employer, American Media Investments, which owns three radio stations in Pittsburg, five in Joplin, Mo., and five in Texas.

Lyle, 63, pleaded guilty Thursday to felony theft for embezzling an estimated $87,750 from American Media, where he was chief operating officer until his theft was discovered in May.

Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton said investigators found $30,457 in losing scratch-off tickets in a drawer of Lyle's desk at KKOW radio station near Pittsburg when he was arrested.

Lyle was charged July 21.

On Sept. 20, Lyle's name was drawn at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson in a "second-chance drawing" for losing scratch-off tickets. He won a "Cruisin' and Cash" grand prize worth $96,000 that included a 2009 Cobra 230 boat and trailer, boating accessories, about $2,000 in cash, and tickets to a NASCAR race this weekend at the Kansas Speedway.

Lyle found out about his win the next day during his preliminary hearing in Crawford County Court when state lottery officials trying to find him contacted the Sheriff's Department.

"It's like being struck twice by lightning, one of which kills you, the second of which revives you," Lyle told the Joplin Globe.

Prosecutor Michael Gayoso Jr. said that as part of a plea bargain, Lyle agreed to use the entire lottery winnings to help pay restitution to American Media. The sheriff said he doubts Lyle would have been able to pay restitution if he had not won the drawing.

The lottery winnings probably won't pay all the restitution. The director of the Kansas Lottery said $28,000 of Lyle's prize will be withheld to pay federal and state income taxes, sales taxes and first-year registration fees and property taxes on the boat and trailer.

A spokeswoman for American Media Investments said the company believes "justice has been served" but declined to comment further.

Gayoso said Lyle probably will be placed on probation because he had no previous felony convictions.