Lotto Scam: Fresno Mini Marts Raided

January 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Lottery officials raided several mini marts today in Fresno. Owners and clerks were taken away in handcuffs after undercover investigators say the suspects cheated would-be customers by lying about winning tickets.Late last year officers posing as consumers showed up at many local mini marts to test their honesty. More than a dozen store owners and employees failed. Today, authorities caught up with them at the businesses they are accused of cheating potential customers.

One woman cried as she was taken to jail. Her father in law didn't say anything as he was loaded into a police patty wagon. Lottery officials said the pair attempted to steal $1,000 dollars by turning in a winning lottery ticket brought in by an undercover police officer.

They told the officer the ticket was worthless, then kept it and claimed the winnings themselves. "Sometimes the tickets might be confusing to some people or they are might be in a hurry. They are trusting the person behind the counter is going to tell them the proper amount," said Bill Hertogue with the California Lottery.

Unfortunately not everyone is playing by the rules.

Frequent lottery players we talked to at this Tesoro mini mart said this store was not one of their luckiest.

Sontaya asks, "have you ever won?" nope, not even two dollars, that's the reason I quit buying here."

Not only are the owners and store clerks facing serious criminal charges, they can no longer sell lottery tickets. In fact, just as the arrests were made, technicians carted away lottery ticket machines and equipment, including satellite technology from the roof.

Omar Casillas said he makes a habit of checking his tickets himself. "For that reason, for that same reason, you never know, ah, you didn't win and he keeps the ticket. See that's just what happened right here. So that's why they made the machines available and people should use them."

Lottery officials said it's best to check your tickets yourself and sign them immediately if they are winners. Otherwise you could be the one getting played. "You don't know the extent or how long this has been going on. Of course when you ask them this is the first and only time they've done this but you can't be for sure," said Hertogue.

The stores busted are also in jeopardy of losing their liquor license. Lottery representatives said the bogus tickets used in the sting appeared to be $1,000 dollar winners so many of the suspects will be charged with attempted grand theft.

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