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The Man Who Cheated To Win $1 Million, And Almost Got Away With It

Daily Mail

If you want to win a huge cash prize on a game show, usually there's just one way to do it: study up.

While you can learn the tricks and patterns used by game shows like The Price is Right, trivia contests like Jeopardy and Who Wants to be a Millionaire are much harder to "rig." That's what makes Millionaire contestant Charles Ingram's story so incredible: he discovered a unique way to cheat at the game show, and left with the top prize.

ITV

Ingram, a retired army major, competed on Britain's version of the classic multiple choice game show in 2001, and he won round after round with ease. His final questions seems easy today, but back in 2001, when the internet was relatively new, it was a head-scratcher.

A number followed by one hundred zeroes is known by what name?

ITV

Against all odds, Ingram picked the correct answer (a googol) and won the $1.3 million prize. But a fellow contestant playing in the show's Fastest Fingers section had been watching Ingram carefully during the show, and he quickly warned producers that something wasn't right.

What the other contestant had noticed was a series of loud coughs.

When the show's host, Chris Tarrant, read out the answers for Ingram to pick from, someone in the audience always coughed during the correct answer. With the contestant's help, producers realized there were actually two coughers in the audience: Ingram's wife Diana, and an man named Tecwen Whittock, who had competed on multiple quiz shows.

Ingram and his accomplices were charged with the crime of "deception," but they had an interesting legal defense. They insisted that the game show "amplified" the sound of their coughs in recordings of Ingram's episode. Even host Chris Tarrants says he didn't remember hearing any coughs during the taping.

Less convincingly, Whittock also insisted that he suffered from a lifelong cough, and it was only a coincidence that he coughed during the right answer.

Ingram and his wife Diana watch a tape of his episode in this courtroom painting.BBC

But the jury wasn't convinced, and the trio were slapped with suspended jail sentences and heavy fines. Years later, Ingram was also found guilty of insurance fraud, but lately he's reinvented himself as a reality show star.

He's appeared on The Weakest Link, Wife Swap, Hell's Kitchen, and Big Brother. But mainly he spends his days writing novels and fixing computers, probably thinking a lot about how close he came to winning that $1.3 million.

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I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com