Cant trust anyone can ya
Your job is to verify lottery tickets.
Someone has just handed you a ticket worth thousands of dollars.
Would you pocket it and cash it yourself?
Clerks at five Twin Cities stores did just that during the Minnesota State Lottery’s first compliance test, authorities said. The clerks and three accomplices now face felony charges of lottery fraud.
“(We) really need our retailers to be honest and to have their employees do it right every time,” said state lottery director Clint Harris.
The stings took place last December and January at 186 randomly selected metro stores, Harris said. Undercover agents would ask clerks to verify the specially constructed crossword game scratch-offs as winners. The prizes ranged from $7,000 to $21,000.
“Our goal was to find out how people would handle those tickets, and what instructions they would give,” said John Willems, director of alcohol and gambling enforcement for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, which had agents help with the sting.
Lottery tickets worth more than $600 must be verified and cashed in at lottery headquarters – which is what the clerks were supposed to tell the undercover agents. But a few are accused of saying the tickets were losers and offering to toss them. Those clerks then tried pocketing the winnings by cashing the tickets at lottery headquarters themselves, sometimes by using an accomplice.
Fewer than 3 percent of the clerks involved in the sting violated the law.
me, that’s somewhat positive,” said Harris, who noted a similar test in California found 18 percent of 450 stores checked broke the law. “It would be great if we can get to zero.”
Representatives of the five stores either refused to comment or could not be reached by phone Friday.
The eight suspects charged with felonies by the Ramsey County attorney’s office also could not be reached. If convicted, each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Stores that failed the compliance test could face administrative action by the state lottery, including having their lottery ticket sales suspended or their contracts canceled.
Lottery officials also plan to make more Minnesota retailers aware of the tests.
While buying lottery tickets at a downtown St. Paul convenience store Friday, Gregg Draper, of St. Paul, said he wasn’t surprised by the news. If he had a winning ticket for several hundred dollars, he wouldn’t bother going to a store, but directly to Lottery headquarters.
“There’s some shady people,” he said.
Minnesota’s compliance check was part of an effort to uphold the state lottery’s commitment to ensure players receive the correct prizes, to ensure retailers are meeting expectations when selling lottery tickets and to protect the games, Harris said.
“From our standpoint, it is an effective program,” Willems said. “The overwhelming majority of people out there did the right thing. It is our intention to continue.”
Maricella Miranda can be reached at 651-228-5421.
Store clerks and accomplices charged with fraud after a Minnesota State Lottery compliance check:
# Asgaralli Ali, 47, of Minneapolis, and Jairam Shiwmangal, 45, of Minneapolis, at Sunset Market, 10130 Sunset Ave. in Circle Pines
# Jaideep Singh, 19, of Columbia Heights, and Harpreet Kaur Virk, 22, of San Francisco, at Easy Way Foods, 2820 Johnson St. N.E. in Minneapolis
# Nancy Ahmed Youssef, 31, and Mohamed S. Ahmed, 37, both of Coon Rapids, at University Market, 308 37th Ave. N.E. in Columbia Heights
# Susan Lynn Hanna, 48, of Vadnais Heights, at River Country Cooperative, 1180 N. Concord St. in South St. Paul
# Majdi Elias Almadien, 38, of Apple Valley, at SS BP, 4553 Nicollet Ave. S. in Minneapolis
To avoid lottery scams at the store:
# Sign the back of a winning ticket before trying to cash it.
# Use an electronic ticket checker, if available at the store, to verify the ticket and winnings.