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Minn. store clerk accused of "micro-scratching" lottery tickets

Minnesota LotteryMinnesota Lottery: Minn. store clerk accused of "micro-scratching" lottery tickets
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What began as a complaint from a lottery customer about the loss of $15 led to an undercover operation and eventually the arrest of a store clerk for lottery fraud.

A man told the Minnesota State Lottery he'd bought a scratch ticket at the Casablanca Market in Hopkins. He scratched it and found he'd won $15.

But, when he took the ticket to the Lottery booth at the Minnesota State Fair, he was told the ticket had already been redeemed.

Lottery Security checked the records they had from Casablanca Market and "found that a large number of manual validations or scratch tickets were being run at the retailer," an investigator wrote in a criminal complaint.

According to the complaint, investigators suspected "micro-scratching."

"Micro-scratching is a term used by investigators to describe a particular method of discerning whether a ticket is a winner or a non-winner in a way that is largely undetectable," wrote the investigator. "Micro-scratching consists of someone using a small sharp object, such as a razor blade or a small knife, to remove a microscopic portion of the inks, coatings, and sealants covering the play area of the scratch ticket in an attempt to reveal the three digit validation code."

The three digit validation code, when combined with the bar code on the back of the ticket, can be used to determine whether the ticket is a winner. According to the complaint, investigators checked the records and found the $15 winning ticket bought at Casablanca Market had been checked using that method.

Lottery Security called in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED).

Five times in December and January, an AGED Special Agent went into Casablanca Market undercover to buy scratch tickets. At the same time, Lottery Security monitored checks of scratch tickets using the three digit validation code.

When she left the store after the first visit, the AGED Special Agent looked up the owners of the vehicles in the parking lot. She then looked at the driver's license photos of those owners. One of the vehicles belonged to 34-year-old Mourad Zahi. The AGED Special agent said she recognized Zahi as the clerk.

The last two undercover operations happened January 24. On both visits, the AGED Special Agent bought tickets she later suspected had been micro-scratched. Lottery Security checked its records and found those same tickets had been checked using the three digit validation code.

The AGED Special Agent came back a week later, armed with a search warrant. She wrote that she watched surveillance video from the store and saw Zahi checking scratch tickets on the dates they'd determined the micro-scratching occurred.

"Notably, prior to each manual validation he conducted, the defendant was observed taking a scratch ticket/roll/or pack of tickets from the ticket dispensing area under the front counter, and then stepping out of view of the surveillance cameras for 30-60 seconds."

Zahi has been charged with two counts of State Lottery Fraud, two counts of Gambling-Cheating, and a single count of Gambling-Attempted Cheating. All are felonies.

KSTP

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58 comments. Last comment 2 years ago by rdgrnr.
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Cletu$2's avatar - Lottery-050.jpg
S.E.Iowa
United States
Member #120509
December 21, 2011
534 Posts
Offline
Posted: June 26, 2012, 9:10 am - IP Logged

I hope the THIEF gets more than a slap on the wrist!Deportation would be an appropiate punishment after he does some serious prison time.

When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it. ~Clarence Darrow

There ought to be one day - just one - when there is open season on senators. ~Will Rogers

    lottolaughs's avatar - avatar 3824.gif
    California
    United States
    Member #40295
    May 31, 2006
    6601 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: June 26, 2012, 9:30 am - IP Logged

    Oh boy....Micro scratching? What will they think of next? Groan......No Pity!......was the $15 worth it?


      United States
      Member #111446
      May 25, 2011
      6323 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: June 26, 2012, 9:56 am - IP Logged

      What began as a complaint from a lottery customer about the loss of $15 led to an undercover operation and eventually the arrest of a store clerk for lottery fraud.

      A man told the Minnesota State Lottery he'd bought a scratch ticket at the Casablanca Market in Hopkins. He scratched it and found he'd won $15.

      But, when he took the ticket to the Lottery booth at the Minnesota State Fair, he was told the ticket had already been redeemed.

      Lottery Security checked the records they had from Casablanca Market and "found that a large number of manual validations or scratch tickets were being run at the retailer," an investigator wrote in a criminal complaint.

      According to the complaint, investigators suspected "micro-scratching."

      "Micro-scratching is a term used by investigators to describe a particular method of discerning whether a ticket is a winner or a non-winner in a way that is largely undetectable," wrote the investigator. "Micro-scratching consists of someone using a small sharp object, such as a razor blade or a small knife, to remove a microscopic portion of the inks, coatings, and sealants covering the play area of the scratch ticket in an attempt to reveal the three digit validation code."

      The three digit validation code, when combined with the bar code on the back of the ticket, can be used to determine whether the ticket is a winner. According to the complaint, investigators checked the records and found the $15 winning ticket bought at Casablanca Market had been checked using that method.

      Lottery Security called in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED).

      Five times in December and January, an AGED Special Agent went into Casablanca Market undercover to buy scratch tickets. At the same time, Lottery Security monitored checks of scratch tickets using the three digit validation code.

      When she left the store after the first visit, the AGED Special Agent looked up the owners of the vehicles in the parking lot. She then looked at the driver's license photos of those owners. One of the vehicles belonged to 34-year-old Mourad Zahi. The AGED Special agent said she recognized Zahi as the clerk.

      The last two undercover operations happened January 24. On both visits, the AGED Special Agent bought tickets she later suspected had been micro-scratched. Lottery Security checked its records and found those same tickets had been checked using the three digit validation code.

      The AGED Special Agent came back a week later, armed with a search warrant. She wrote that she watched surveillance video from the store and saw Zahi checking scratch tickets on the dates they'd determined the micro-scratching occurred.

      "Notably, prior to each manual validation he conducted, the defendant was observed taking a scratch ticket/roll/or pack of tickets from the ticket dispensing area under the front counter, and then stepping out of view of the surveillance cameras for 30-60 seconds."

      Zahi has been charged with two counts of State Lottery Fraud, two counts of Gambling-Cheating, and a single count of Gambling-Attempted Cheating. All are felonies.

      Hopefully this clerk (Zahi), is no longer working at this, or any other store.  Disapprove

        maximumfun's avatar - Lottery-064.jpg

        United States
        Member #124621
        March 16, 2012
        1492 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: June 26, 2012, 10:02 am - IP Logged

        He (clerk/thief) was smart enough to NOT do the illegal activity within sight of the stores security cameras.


          United States
          Member #111446
          May 25, 2011
          6323 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: June 26, 2012, 10:14 am - IP Logged

          He (clerk/thief) was smart enough to NOT do the illegal activity within sight of the stores security cameras.

          Smart, but not smart enough. He is being charged with several felonies, including Lottery Fraud and Gambling-Cheating.

          How many others are out there, but just haven't been caught yet? Makes me sick and disgusted.  Puke

            Avatar
            New Member

            United States
            Member #109772
            April 19, 2011
            3 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: June 26, 2012, 10:28 am - IP Logged

            Many states have rules regarding how many scratch tickets may be scanned without producing a winner. If you go over the limit it will block the machine out and likely cause an inquiry to the store by the lottery. This is an old scam. It amazes me how many ways dishonest people can come up with to cheat people. A C-store tried to scam me yesterday. When confronted did the no speak English routine. A good rule of thumb regarding regular lottery tickets is that if you use the customer area scanner to self check a paper ticket, and it says "Winning Ticket, See Store Clerk" don't do that until you have physically checked it on the wall chart or on the web. Also, just take a quick photo with your cell phone if possible of any ticket before handing it to a clerk. Of course if caught they will use the "Sorry I did not know rules defense" . Also when having a clerk check your ticket make sure that the payout display is visible to you and not blocked by a potato chip rack etc, so that you can see the display screen. There are still lots of good honest hardworking people out there but, Be Careful! 

              RedStang's avatar - lotto zpse7a2fd55.jpg
              Dutchess NY
              United States
              Member #121966
              January 21, 2012
              2671 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: June 26, 2012, 11:02 am - IP Logged

              Must be more to the story. Why bring the ticket to the state fair. I'm guessing he was denied the 15$ at the store. The clerk should of tossed the ticket instead of reselling it.

                dallascowboyfan's avatar - tiana the-princess-and-the-frog.jpg
                Oklahoma
                United States
                Member #82391
                November 12, 2009
                5399 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: June 26, 2012, 11:29 am - IP Logged

                Oh no Mourad Zahi didn't.......No No

                I Love Pink & Green 1908

                  RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                  mid-Ohio
                  United States
                  Member #9
                  March 24, 2001
                  17933 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: June 26, 2012, 1:37 pm - IP Logged

                  That clerk was stupid or greedy or both.  If he was cashing the tickets then he had enough money to buy  them and destroy any evidence of his crime.

                  * you don't need more tickets, just the right ticket * 
                  * your best chance at winning a lottery jackpot is to buy a ticket * 
                       Wink 


                    United States
                    Member #111446
                    May 25, 2011
                    6323 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: June 26, 2012, 1:44 pm - IP Logged

                    That clerk was stupid or greedy or both.  If he was cashing the tickets then he had enough money to buy  them and destroy any evidence of his crime.

                    Your thinking outside the box RJ! You'd do well in a profession as a thief! Obviously this guy was greedy, but considerably more stupid.   Jester Laugh

                      Avatar
                      California
                      United States
                      Member #80929
                      October 7, 2009
                      93 Posts
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                      Posted: June 26, 2012, 1:46 pm - IP Logged

                      I hope the THIEF gets more than a slap on the wrist!Deportation would be an appropiate punishment after he does some serious prison time.

                      The THIEF is the lottery, regardless of state, because you have virtually no chance of winning.  You have a better chance of being hit lightning 65 times before winning the state lottery.  Have YOU been hit by lightning 65 times lately?  Big Smile


                        United States
                        Member #111446
                        May 25, 2011
                        6323 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: June 26, 2012, 1:53 pm - IP Logged

                        The THIEF is the lottery, regardless of state, because you have virtually no chance of winning.  You have a better chance of being hit lightning 65 times before winning the state lottery.  Have YOU been hit by lightning 65 times lately?  Big Smile

                        Only 64 times so far. Think I'm about due for my Tri-States Megabucks+ win! ($5,775,000)    Embarassed

                          Cletu$2's avatar - Lottery-050.jpg
                          S.E.Iowa
                          United States
                          Member #120509
                          December 21, 2011
                          534 Posts
                          Offline
                          Posted: June 26, 2012, 2:36 pm - IP Logged

                          The THIEF is the lottery, regardless of state, because you have virtually no chance of winning.  You have a better chance of being hit lightning 65 times before winning the state lottery.  Have YOU been hit by lightning 65 times lately?  Big Smile

                          Whether or not I've been hit by lightning is not the question.Whether or not the lottery is ripping us off is not the question,either.This clerk is a THIEF and needs to be punished for being a THIEF.If you don't believe in playing the lottery,what the HELL are you doing on a lottery board in the first place?

                          When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it. ~Clarence Darrow

                          There ought to be one day - just one - when there is open season on senators. ~Will Rogers

                            Avatar
                            ozone park
                            United States
                            Member #57042
                            December 15, 2007
                            56 Posts
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                            Posted: June 26, 2012, 3:00 pm - IP Logged

                            This is a repeat post that I had posted last week but thought it was appropriate for this scam now revealed.

                             

                            Listen I have a friend who is from India. He owned a store here in Queens. He was a very nice guy or so I thought. We became friends over the years. About 3 or 4 years ago he left the country very fast. They shut the store down and left the USA so fast and left everything behind. Everything in the store I mean everything. And one day he sent me an email and we started to chat. I acted like I knew nothing but I had heard rumours about something to do with lottery tickets etc.

                            So we started to chat. I asked him straight out one day about what the hell happened and why they shut the store down so fast and why he left. I guess because he was not in the USA anymore nor was he ever coming back, him or the other 2 owners he did not care what he said to me. So I asked him straight out Jeff why did you guys leave so fast out of NY the way you guys did.

                            He said they were scamming people out of their lottery winnings. He said that what they would do is, they had losing tickets under the counter and when someone came in he would take the ticket from them and scam it. Now this was before you would hear the noise from the machine or even before you can scan it yourself. So what he would do is quickly look at the ticket and if it was a winner he would switch it out real fast with a losing ticket. and he would say this is a loser. Now he would also talk to you before he did anything to see if you knew it was a winner or not and he would not do it to just anyone. he would only do it to people he knew would trust him, accept his answers, naive people, people that just scratched it and did not really check it. If the person knew they won something he would switch it out for a smaller prize ticket he had.

                            He said it was very elaborate. Him and the 2 store owners concocted this scam so good that they were pulling in amounts that he would not tell me. He also did not tell me what the biggest scam he pulled was. But he did say that it was not exclusive to scratch offs that they would do it with lottery tickets also. It all depended on who the person was. If it was an avid gambler he would not make any attempts because he said they knew exactly what they are owed and how much they won. But seniors were the best he said. because they would scratch them right there in the store and give them right to him to check them for them.

                            After years of being in business and a very profitable neighborhood business here in Ozone Park one night the first owner ran off to Canada and within 3 days the second owner had disappeared and the kid who was the brains behind the whole scam was left at the store. What happened was the first owner took money out of the safe and ran off. the second owner took money from the account and ran off and Jeff the kid who really only worked their but was behind this elaborate scam was left hiding the bag, so to speak so he took off with all the rest of the money and ran away to India. he said that he thinks that they were being investigated and it was closing in on them so the owners cut out and Jeff did not want to take the rap alone so he took off to India. he says that he got no money out of it because it was in the safe and the owners took it but many of us do not believe the story at all. We think that they split the money 3 ways and took off but we do not know.

                            I will tell you that the owner of the building was told to come to the store because it had not been opened all week and the food was rotted. the day he came to the store there were rats all over the place. They had literally left everything even the cigarettes and the coins but no cash. the food smelled so bad it was horrible and the health department had also been called because people saw the rats coming in through the basement. It was terrible. But people that knew Jeff all said the same thing that they think they might have hit a large number of winnings and split it and left.

                            I asked Jeff about this. All he would say is listen we have families and we did what we had to do. I asked him how he felt about the people he scammed and he did not say anything. but he did say that where they come from this is life for them and he tried to justify it with some religious bulls**t and he said he had to do what he had to do to take care of his wife and children that were in India.

                            I spoke to some people that are from middle eastern countries and they basically said that where they come from it is normal to do whatever you have to do to help your family make it. I asked this one guy from Iraq or Iran I do not remember which, and he said that we have these stupid morals and principals that make it so easy for them to scam us because we live a certain way and they take advantage of our morals. he said to me straight out that he does not have any remorse for what they have to do to feed their families. I asked him if he has done any scams with the lottery and he just smiled and said what do you think. I live in Ozone Park and mostly all of our businesses are middle eastern owned. There are very few stores left that are not middle eastern anymore. So I have learned a lot of things about these people and their lack of morals and principals. i have had a lot and I mean a lot of them try to scam me out of change. i give them a 20 and they give me change back of a ten. This happens all the time and I am not kidding you. They joke that it was an honest mistake but after getting to know these people and their ways and customs I am telling you this is all part of a systematic scam. It is how they are brought up and raised. And if you do not believe me just go and try and see how they will try to scam you out of your money.

                            I am sorry but i do not like to generalize but the reality is just that, the reality and we have to be smart about how we do things because these people have upped the game and they are smart. I believe that this is a bigger problem than being reported out by the NYS lottery agency because they do not want people to lose faith in a system built on honor. But the fact is that these people know how to scam us and they do it well. Watch your tickets. make sure they are not bent, or scratched, make sure they look old. Make sure the dates on your tickets are the date you are playing.

                            We live in a different life now. The people are not raised the same. We were raised with morals, principals standards, ethics, integrity, honor and virtuous ways that most society's are raised with. But the people from the middle east are raised much different. they believe for instance that they can kill under Allah etc etc and so they do not have the same morals and standard the rest of the world has and that is why they do what they do because they take advantage of our naivety so to speak because we try to believe that people are good.

                            So we need to change how we deal with people now. we need to question them and check and double check everything because in the end they are trying to scam you and if you do not go in knowing what you won they will scam your ticket right from you. And the NYS Lottery knows all about this but do not want to entertain the notion that there are more than a few bad apples in the bunch because than they take a risk that people will not trust the system and they will lose money. It is sad that their bottom line is more important than the protection of the people that play these games. If they really cared they would have participated in the dateline series investigation when they came to NY to see how many retailers were bad.

                             

                            Thank you and I hope that you will think twice before you believe the guy behind the counter when he tells you your ticket did not win. watch out.