Monday, April 13, 2020

Lottery Scams

Clerks Steal Lottery Winnings
Written by Robert A. Waters

The customer held a winning scratch-off lottery ticket as he walked into Winn-Dixie Liquors in Fort Myers, Florida.  Crystelle Baton, the clerk, scanned the ticket, then handed the man a five-dollar bill from her purse.  “Here’s your winnings,” she said with a smile.  As the customer left the store, she furtively placed the ticket between the pages in her notebook.  The payout was not $5.00, but worth $600.

Within minutes, the customer returned and arrested Baton for grand theft.  The Florida Lottery Commission, which had sent the agent to the store for a random visit, had caught another clerk red-handed.

Baton admitted the fraud, lost her job, and ended up paying a fine.  She was lucky not to get jail time.  How many times Baton had perpetuated this crime is not known, but the scam has been going on for years, likely since the beginning of the modern-day lottery.  

Some unscrupulous store-owners have become multi-millionaires using this scheme. recently reported that “half of [New Jersey’s] lottery winners are lottery retailers or family members of store operators…As a group, those 10 people collected 840 prizes totaling almost $1.8 million.”

Besides stealing the winnings of unsuspecting customers, how else do retailers game the system?

In some cases, they offer to pay winners for their winning ticket, but at a discount.  In these instances, the winner gets a quick cash payout without having to worry about paying taxes, child support payments, or other court-ordered debts that would be taken out of their winnings.  Then the retailer, who may have only paid half the amount the ticket is worth, cashes in.

The above scheme, called “discounting,” is illegal, but cash transactions with strangers are hard to prove.

A Tampa, Florida employee of the Radiant convenience store was recently arrested for “micro-scratching.”  ABC Action News reported that Emad Faragallah used a “small blade to scratch off part of a lottery ticket, exposing a number that can be read by a lottery terminal to determine if it is a winner.”  The report stated that “over a short period of time, Faragallah cashed in at least seven winning tickets valued at $1,000 each.”  So many winning tickets from the same source alerted officials to the scam.

So, if you’re playing the lottery at your favorite store and never winning more than a few bucks, maybe the clerk or storeowner is ripping you off.

Or, of course, your loser tickets might just be the luck of the draw. 


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