Man paid $1,500 on $4,000 scratch ticket
The lottery machines and scratch tickets were pulled from Kirsch Liquors in Worcester, Massachusetts, last month, after a man was scammed there when he received only $1,500 on a $4,000 winning scratch ticket, a state Lottery Commission official said.
The Lottery Commission will file a decision by the end of the month on whether to suspend the store's lottery license for 30 days or indefinitely.
Damaso Vasquez told Lottery Commission authorities he bought a $1 ticket from the store at 646 Main St., and when he found it was a winner, he took it back to the store on Sunday, according to Lottery Commission spokeswoman Beth A. Bresnahan.
Mr. Vasquez said someone at the store gave him $1,500 and took the ticket. Mr. Vasquez became suspicious, however, once he learned that winning scratch tickets worth $600 or more cannot be redeemed in stores and must be taken to a Lottery Commission regional office, Ms. Bresnahan said.
The scratch ticket winner filed a complaint at the Lottery Commission's office in the city on April 3 and an investigation was immediately started, resulting in the removal of all lottery tickets and lottery machines from the store.
"They were suspended immediately once the claim was filed," Ms. Bresnahan said.
The winning Wild Cherries ticket was cashed and the person who cashed it in told investigators he was paid by the store's owner, Robert Kirsch, to cash it, Ms. Bresnahan said. The man who cashed in the ticket was a former employee of Kirsch Liquors, she said.
By coincidence, Kirsch is the German word for "cherry."
The state Lottery Commission's Web site places the odds of winning the $4,000, the highest prize on the ticket, at 1 in 144,000.
Mr. Kirsch said today he had no comment after serving a man who asked whether there were scratch tickets available, only to have the owner shake his head no. Mr. Kirsch then said a former employee was responsible for the scam, and said the employee was fired before the ticket scandal.
When asked how a former employee could get behind the counter of the store and scan the ticket into a lottery machine, Mr. Kirsch responded, "That's a story for another day."
Ms. Bresnahan said the Lottery Commission has records of scratch ticket transactions, and traced the winning ticket's history to the liquor store.
"We have records of all transactions," she said. "We know where a ticket was sold from and where it was scanned."
For tax purposes and because most stores do not have the cash on hand to pay out big winners, all scratch tickets that win $600 or more must be cashed at regional Lottery offices. All stores selling tickets are aware of the rules, Ms. Bresnahan said.
Mr. Vasquez filed a claim to recover the winnings and the commission will make a decision during a hearing how he will be paid. The commission can only pay out a prize once, she said, noting the ticket was later cashed in for the full prize.
Kirsch Liquors had an April 26 hearing before a Lottery Commission board, and the board has 30 days to make a decision on the method of payment for Mr. Vasquez and what, if any, action to take against the store.
In January 2004, a Westboro resident was duped by a gas station clerk in Westboro out of her winning $20,000 ticket. Erika R. Schmitt, a college student, purchased a $2 winning Lucky Stars ticket Jan. 18, 2004, from clerk Antoine Y. Reiche at the Getty Mart at 11 Milk St. Ms. Schmitt was unsure whether she had won the big prize and showed it to Mr. Reiche, who snatched it from her, saying it was worth only $100, and paid her cash from the store's register.
The college student complained to police and Mr. Reiche was charged with larceny of property worth more than $250. Mr. Reiche admitted to stealing the ticket in court and was ordered to write a letter of apology to Ms. Schmitt. He also received one year of probation and was ordered to pay fines.
Ms. Schmitt received a check for $14,000, which was how much the winnings were after taxes, from the state Lottery Commission a few months after the incident. The store's lottery license was suspended from Jan. 23, 2001, to Feb. 10, 2001, and reinstated quickly because there was proof the owner wasn't involved in the theft of the ticket.