FORT WORTH, Texas — A Fort Worth woman says her gamble in letting a friend take her winning $20,000 lottery ticket to a store to verify whether it was a winner apparently didn't pay off.
Nancy Charlez, 34, filed a police report Tuesday, saying her friend returned empty-handed. Her friend said a man in a pickup took the unsigned "Lucky Dice" ticket from her and said it was "no good," the report claims.
Police are investigating the alleged scratch-off rip-off.
Bobby Heith, a spokesman with the Texas Lottery Commission, said he could not comment on whether anyone had tried to cash the ticket but said the agency is assisting Fort Worth police in the investigation.
Charlez, a stay-at-home mother of four, said she would have used the winnings to help bring her family out of the red. She said her husband is a roofer, and the work is not always steady.
"Right now we're behind on everything. We're behind on our bills. We're behind on our rent," Charlez said. "Honestly I would have used that money to catch myself up. I'm not the type of person who spends money to spend money. That would have helped me a lot."
Charlez said she had taken her sick twin 3-month-old daughters to the Cook Children's Medical Center clinic on Jacksboro Highway on Tuesday evening.
She said her friend, who had been hanging out at her house Tuesday, had offered to help with the babies and Charlez's two other children, a 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old boy.
While waiting to see the doctor, Charlez said she pulled out three $2 scratch-off lottery tickets from her daughters' diaper bag. She had bought them the afternoon before at a mini-mart near her house.
The first was a loser.
The second, a Lucky Dice Doubler ticket, revealed a 3 and 4, adding up to the needed winning combination of 7. The numbers were followed by "$20,000."
"At first when I scratched it off, I didn't believe it," Charlez said. Amanda Alvarado, a receptionist at the clinic, said she was among several employees to whom Charlez showed the ticket to get a second opinion.
"She said, 'Is this right?' " Alvarado said. "I looked at it and said, 'You won!' "
"I think we were more excited than she was," Alvarado said, laughing. "We were like, 'No way! Oh my God!' "
Charlez said her friend offered to take the ticket to the nearby Texaco Grab and Go Service Station at 2616 Jacksboro Highway.
"She asked me if I wanted her to take the ticket to the Texaco to see if it was a good ticket," Charlez said. "At the moment I didn't have my mind on the lottery ticket. I had my mind on my daughters, so I just went ahead and gave it to her."
Charlez said the friend returned without the ticket, claiming a man in a white pickup had taken it from her.
Charlez said she told her friend to go back to the store and get her ticket back. She said the friend returned and said the man had already left.
"It's a bunch of bull corn," Charlez said.
Charlez said she then went to the Texaco, where the clerk confirmed that the ticket was legitimate. She said she questioned her friend again and became suspicious after the friend told her that time that the man was in a red pickup.
Dambar Bohara, a cashier at the Texaco, confirmed Wednesday that the ticket the friend had asked him to check on his computer was a winner.
"I told her, 'You won $20,000!' " Bohara said.
Bohara said the woman was talking on her cellphone at the time and remarked, "That's not my ticket. That's somebody else's."
He said he gave the ticket back to the woman, instructing her to call lottery officials to arrange to get her winnings. He said the woman walked out of the store.
Bohara said that a male customer was at the counter but that he never saw the woman give the ticket to him or anyone else inside the store. He said he lost sight of the woman in the parking lot.
Less than an hour later, Bohara said, a frantic Charlez came to inquire about the ticket.
"She just told me, 'That's my ticket. Somebody took it. How do I get my money? Let me prove that's my ticket,' " Bohara said.
"She looked furious," Bohara added. "Like she lost everything."
The friend, who is not being named because of the police investigation, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Heith said people who win scratch-off lottery tickets should immediately sign the back of the card to ensure that only they will collect the winnings. Lost or stolen winning tickets should be immediately reported to local police and the Texas Lottery Commission, he said.
"Hypothetically speaking, if a person finds a ticket that has not been signed, and it is a winning ticket, they can claim the prize if it has not been reported to the local authorities or the Texas Lottery Commission as lost or stolen," he said.
If the unsigned ticket has been reported to authorities, as in Charlez's case, and a person tries to claim it, Heith said, the prize would not be paid until after an investigation. He said local authorities or the court system would determine the rightful owner.
Charlez is not hopeful she'll ever see her winnings.
"There's probably nothing I could do about it, but if I could stop somebody from cashing it, that's something," she said.