Woman accused of taking money from those hoping to be ticket sellers
A former employee of the Texas Lottery Commission has been indicted for allegedly defrauding retailers who applied to become Texas Lottery vendors.
The indictment charges Taneil Gage with one count of theft by a public servant of more than $500 but less than $1,500. The offense is a state jail felony punishable by up to two years behind bars.
The alleged scam in June and July 2003 preyed on retailers who didn't meet minimum credit ratings, said Mindy McCracken, assistant Travis County district attorney in the public integrity unit.
Retail applicants with low credit ratings are allowed to become lottery vendors if they deposit a $5,000 certificate of deposit with the lottery commission during their first year as vendors.
If there are no problems, the money is refunded at the end of the year and the retailer can continue as a lottery vendor.
However, Gage allegedly conducted a scheme in which retailers had a third option — pay a percentage to a third party who supposedly would supply the rest of the deposit, McCracken said. The third party allegedly was Gage.
"If you don't want to post the CD, you can contact this woman I know. She'll post it for you. You just pay a percentage of that," McCracken said Gage told the applicants.
Sometimes the required money order was 10 percent — $500 — and sometimes less, McCracken said.
"The name and number would turn out to be her," McCracken added, saying some of the would-be victims recognized Gage's voice. "They thought it was fishy and didn't pursue it. It just didn't sound quite right. Unfortunately, some people did fall for it."
The indictment lists victims in El Paso and the small towns of Frisco and Tioga. The victim in Houston is listed as Abdul Chinoy of Sunrise Conoco, who said Gage told him to pay $200 to a "licensing company" which he never got back.
The victims were told to send money orders to a post office box that was registered to Gage, McCracken said. Gage allegedly would change computer records to show that a vendor had good credit and didn't need to post a deposit.
The lottery commission became suspicious when a certified letter sent to a potential vendor was returned unopened, according to McCracken.
McCracken credits former lottery investigator Charlie Brune, now an investigator at the Texas Department of Transportation's motor vehicle division and a former Texas Ranger, with quickly cracking the case.
"The investigators on this case did a great job. I know the lottery's getting some bad press lately, but on his watch, they did a good job," McCracken said.
However, since that scam was discovered, the agency's security division has been reduced. The number of commissioned law officers was slashed from 35 to four and investigative field offices were closed in a reorganization in November.
And recently, the Lottery Commission's executive director, Reagan Greer, resigned after he admitted approving inflated Texas Lotto jackpot estimates.
- Houston: Abdul Chinoy, of Sunrise Conoco, said former Texas Lottery Commission employee Taneil Gage told him to pay $200 to a "licensing company," which he never got back.
- Elsewhere: El Paso; small towns of Frisco and Tioga.