Monday night’s installment of Dateline NBC reported on how some customers were getting screwed out of their state lottery winnings by unsavory store clerks who allegedly claim prizes by pilfering winning numbers.
Bob Sehested of Camarillo, Calif. scanned one of his 50 purchased lottery tickets in a retail store he frequented almost daily. The clerk had told him that a 2nd place prize winning ticket was sold at that store. He knew this after a message appeared on the lottery computer.
Sehested also received a message upon scanning that one lottery ticket.
“All it said on one of my tickets was ‘Congratulations. See retailer.’ And again, no one expects to win. Sure, you're heart races, cause you know someone won the half a million dollars,” he told Dateline NBC.
The scanner only told him he had a winning ticket--but not how much he'd won. To find out he had to give it to the clerk who'd check it on his lottery computer. What did the clerk tell him?
Sehested was told he had just won a whopping $4.
The winner of that second big prize was not found for six weeks but a store video was made available to local news media.
Sehested was stunned to see it was he and his wife on that video purchasing the winning lottery ticket.
“I called the lottery and it all went from there.”
Lottery investigators came to Sehested's house and interviewed him. They quickly determined that Sehested was the legitimate winner of the $500,000 prize--- and he eventually got his money.
But why hadn't Bob known he'd had the winning ticket in the first place? After some more investigation, it became clear the clerk had stolen the winning ticket.
It seems that the clerk journeyed into the back of the store and switched the winning ticket with another.
Dateline NBC reported that lottery investigators became suspicious when the clerk tried to cash the $500,000 ticket. Any large claim like that gets investigated, and the clerk's story about how he got the ticket didn't add up. The clerk pled guilty to Grand Theft, Making a False Claim to a Government Agency and Enhancements for a theft over $500,000.00. The prize offered by the stolen Mega Millions Lottery ticket was $530,858.00. The clerk was sentences to five years and four months in state prison.
Here is what an NBC Dateline investigation yielded:
In Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia retailer cashed eighteen lottery tickets in three months for a total of $45,000.
In New Jersey, a retailer cashed 105 lottery tickets for more than $236,000.
In New York, another retailer has cashed 120 winning tickets for more than $500,000.
In Illinois, we found one store where four employees and five of their relatives cashed a total of 556 winning tickets, for more than $1,600,000.
In California, lottery investigators were seeing the same thing. In fact, in 2007, the five most frequent winners in California were retailers. One store owner in Los Angeles cashed 121 tickets for more than $160,000.
In California, they're serious about making sure lottery retailers are honest, and have mounted an unprecedented investigation of store owners and ticket sellers.
Alejandro Botticelli, Gambling911.com