New Mexico Lottery security agents have identified 12 Albuquerque-area men and women allegedly involved in the theft and receipt of 24 packs of Lottery tickets, stolen while in transit at an area United Parcel Service shipping hub.
Charges have been filed against some of the suspects, and information from the investigation has been forwarded to the Bernalillo and Sandoval County District Attorneys.
The face value of the packs was $7,200 ($300 per pack). However, advertised prizes ranged from $1 to $100,000 for 17 different games.
Initial filings include a mix of felony and misdemeanor larceny, embezzlement and conspiracy charges. Additional misdemeanor charges are pending, including unlawful redemption of stolen lottery tickets.
According to Tom Romero, the Lottery's executive vice president of security, ten of the suspects are adults and two are juveniles. Seven were allegedly involved in the initial thefts, and five individuals were allegedly involved with the receipt of the stolen tickets.
The packs' disappearances were quickly detected by the Lottery's computerized tracking system. Most of the tickets have already been accounted for.
"Agents were able to trace the stolen tickets to various stores in the metro area where the suspects were trying to redeem winners," Romero said. "Our agents conducted their own surveillance and also relied on surveillance tapes from retailers. At least three separate groups have been identified cashing the stolen tickets."
Three packs of tickets were stolen in mid-November, en-route from the Lottery to authorized retailers. While that theft was being investigated, another 21 packs were stolen in early December from the same UPS facility. Additional details about the suspects, the individual games or the particular UPS facility involved are not yet being released pending the completion of the probe.
Theft of lottery tickets is a fourth degree felony in New Mexico. A conviction could carry a maximum penalty of up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine on each charge. The Lottery Authority also reserves the right to file civil charges to recover costs associated with the theft and investigation. Lottery security agents are commissioned New Mexico law enforcement officers that investigate Lottery-related incidents.
Tens of thousands of New Mexico Lottery ticket packs are shipped by UPS every year. There have been very few cases such as this, according to Romero. In each instance, the case was solved quickly.