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How a lottery thief got away with the crime

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When backpackers Caroline Day and Mei-Yin Lee discovered they had won Lotto they rang home from the newsagency. It was after one in the morning in Britain but Ms. Day wanted to share the news with her mother.

During that joyous phone call, they calculated they had won about £220,000 (US$300,000).

But three weeks later when Dr. Lee rang NSW Lotteries to inquire about the money, a "bold" fraud by an employee at the newsagency came to light — and it would be another 27 months before the pair saw their money.

In an email to the Herald from her home in Britain, Dr. Lee — an Australian citizen from Perth — said she was "over the moon" that their long legal battle with NSW Lotteries had been settled and that changes had been made to the way claims were processed.

On January 4, 2005, Dr. Lee and Ms. Day presented their Lotto ticket at the World Square Newsagency Bookshop. A friend took their photo with the ticket before they handed it in and filled in a claim form.

After the transaction, the employee who had served them, Chrishartato Ongkoputra, known as Chris Ong, substituted their claim form for one of his own. He then sent his form, and their winning ticket, to NSW Lotteries.

"The stars really aligned for him," said the barrister James Stevenson, SC, who is representing newsagents Michael Pavellis and his partner Sheila Urech-Tan.

Mr. Ong knew that NSW Lotteries would not pay out for 14 days. He told his boss he was having visa problems and needed to return temporarily to Indonesia. He gambled that the backpackers would not chase up their win until after he had left the country.

"The [newsagents] have been betrayed by a person they had no reason to doubt. They now find themselves in the position of being sued for half a million dollars plus costs by an agency of the government," Mr. Stevenson said.

At the time of Mr. Ong's fraud, NSW Lotteries was already reviewing its security following a similar fraud at an agency in Croydon. A report by NSW Lotteries, tendered in evidence, said it needed to address the problem with unregistered tickets to protect the corporate image and customer confidence.

Dr. Lee is just happy the matter has been settled.

"The legal battle was hard, both financially and because it was halfway around the world in a different time zone," she said. "We took the risk and fought because we believed we were morally right. We are pleased that they have altered the claim procedures so there is no chance that it can happen to anyone else. We hope that one day Chrishartato Ongkoputra will be caught and prosecuted," she said.

The hearing continues.

The Great Lotto sting: how he did it

January 4, 2005: Winning Lotto ticket worth $574,000 lodged at World Square newsagency. An employee, Chris Ong, substitutes claim form, and sends his claim and ticket to NSW Lotteries.

January 12: NSW Lotteries sends Ong a letter congratulating him on his win.

January 18: NSW Lotteries transfers money into his account. The following day Ong withdraws $574,000 (US$473,600) in cash.

January 27: Ong leaves Australia.

January 31: The real winners, Mei-Yin Lee and Caroline Day, contact NSW Lotteries inquiring about their prize.

Look, Mom ... Mei-Yin Lee and Caroline Day with their winning ticket at the World Square Newsagency. Chris Ong is in the background.

Look, Mom ... Mei-Yin Lee and Caroline Day with their
winning ticket at the World Square Newsagency.
Chris Ong is in the background.

Sydney Morning Herald

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4 comments. Last comment 8 years ago by jeffrey.
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gocart1's avatar - lighthouse
da bronx,city island,n.y.
United States
Member #30516
January 17, 2006
333 Posts
Offline
Posted: May 7, 2007, 8:47 pm - IP Logged

chris ong hands should be chopped off.........isn't that what they do in australia if you steal

    justxploring's avatar - villiarna
    Wandering Aimlessly
    United States
    Member #25360
    November 5, 2005
    4458 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: May 7, 2007, 8:58 pm - IP Logged

    chris ong hands should be chopped off.........isn't that what they do in australia if you steal

    I hope you are joking.  They're a little more civilized there!  (although feeding this crook to a hungry Croc might not be such a bad idea.)   I am happy to read that the real winners finally collected their prize. 

      MADDOG10's avatar - smoke
      North Jersey
      United States
      Member #5709
      July 18, 2004
      18105 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: May 7, 2007, 9:17 pm - IP Logged

      Well, chop off his hands then feed "him" to a hungry Croc....!

                                                             It doesn't matter who hurt you, or broke you down

                                                                     It only matters who made you smile again.         

        jeffrey's avatar - moon
        Hamilton, OH
        United States
        Member #4162
        March 27, 2004
        277 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: May 7, 2007, 9:23 pm - IP Logged

        Just report him to his government; they may do the deed. I like the meat grinder idea, except throw his most loved in instead.