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Sting nabs Minnesota lottery clerks stealing winning tickets

Minnesota LotteryMinnesota Lottery: Sting nabs Minnesota lottery clerks stealing winning tickets
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Investigations will expand after lottery ticket agents attempt to redeem undercover agents' winning tickets

Five Twin Cities convenience store employees and three accomplices are facing lottery fraud charges after they were caught by undercover investigators allegedly trying to cash in winning lottery tickets for themselves.

The fraud was discovered after the Minnesota State Lottery's security office and the state's Alcohol & Gambling Enforcement Division set up a sting operation to test whether employees at lottery retailers were lying to players about the value of their tickets and then trying to redeem the winnings.

"(We) really need our retailers to be honest and to have their employees do it right every time," said state lottery director Clint Harris.

The stings took place last December and January at 186 randomly selected metro stores, Harris said. Undercover agents would ask clerks to verify the specially constructed crossword game scratch-offs as winners. The prizes ranged from $7,000 to $21,000.

"Our goal was to find out how people would handle those tickets, and what instructions they would give," said John Willems, director of alcohol and gambling enforcement for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, which had agents help with the sting.

Harris said he wasn't pleased with the stores that failed, but he was proud that the majority of the tested employees didn't give into temptation.  Out of 186 stores in the metro area that were visited by an undercover agent during the sting, five stores didn't pass.

"I was hoping for zero of course," Harris said. "Unfortunately, there are some of our retailers that do not do the right thing."

Harris noted that although 3 percent of the stores visited commited fraud, a similar test in California found 18 percent of 450 stores checked broke the law.

During the sting, undercover agents would bring in a decoy lottery ticket that appeared to be a winner for a large amount of money. The agent would ask the clerk to verify if it was a winner to see if the clerk would tell the agent to bring the ticket into the state lottery office in Roseville. Winning tickets valued at more than $599 must be brought to the state lottery office to be redeemed.

The Ramsey County attorney's office charged eight people with felony lottery fraud after the investigation. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $25,000 fine or both.

Representatives of the five stores either refused to comment or could not be reached by phone Friday.  The eight suspects charged with felonies by the Ramsey County attorney's office also could not be reached.

Stores that failed the compliance test could face administrative action by the state lottery, including having their lottery ticket sales suspended or their contracts canceled.

Lottery officials also plan to make more Minnesota retailers aware of the tests.

While buying lottery tickets at a downtown St. Paul convenience store Friday, Gregg Draper, of St. Paul, said he wasn't surprised by the news. If he had a winning ticket for several hundred dollars, he wouldn't bother going to a store, but directly to Lottery headquarters.

"There's some shady people," he said.

Minnesota's compliance check was part of an effort to uphold the state lottery's commitment to ensure players receive the correct prizes, to ensure retailers are meeting expectations when selling lottery tickets and to protect the games, Harris said.

"From our standpoint, it is an effective program," Willems said. "The overwhelming majority of people out there did the right thing. It is our intention to continue."

Harris said the compliance checks are just one tool that will help players get correct winnings. He encouraged players to sign the backs of their tickets right away so they can't be redeemed by anyone else. Ticket scanners are also in 1,600 of the state's 3,100 lottery retailers, so players can look for the machines instead of bringing tickets to the clerk.

Authorities are planning to continue the checks and expand them to outstate Minnesota soon.

"We're in the business of handing out prize money, and we want people to get the right amount," Harris said. "The integrity of our games have to be top notch, otherwise we would fail."

The Accused 

Store clerks and accomplices charged with fraud after a Minnesota State Lottery compliance check:

  • Asgaralli Ali, 47, of Minneapolis, and Jairam Shiwmangal, 45, of Minneapolis, at Sunset Market, 10130 Sunset Ave. in Circle Pines
  • Jaideep Singh, 19, of Columbia Heights, and Harpreet Kaur Virk, 22, of San Francisco, at Easy Way Foods, 2820 Johnson St. N.E. in Minneapolis
  • Nancy Ahmed Youssef, 31, and Mohamed S. Ahmed, 37, both of Coon Rapids, at University Market, 308 37th Ave. N.E. in Columbia Heights
  • Susan Lynn Hanna, 48, of Vadnais Heights, at River Country Cooperative, 1180 N. Concord St. in South St. Paul
  • Majdi Elias Almadien, 38, of Apple Valley, at SS BP, 4553 Nicollet Ave. S. in Minneapolis

Tips to prevent your lottery prize from being stolen

  • Sign the back of a winning ticket before trying to cash it.
  • Use an electronic ticket checker, if available at the store, to verify the ticket and winnings.
  • If you hand over your ticket to be checked, always insist on getting it back afterward.  Don't let the agent throw it away.  The agent does not have a right to keep it, and there is no rule or law stating that you must give up the losing ticket.  It belongs to you.
  • Listen for any audio tones produced by the lottery machine when the ticket is checked.  Most machines will make a "error tone" if the ticket is a loser, but if the ticket is a winner it will generate a receipt and sometimes produce a "winning sound" of some type.  If the lottery machine produces a receipt after the clerk scans the ticket, it is probably a winner.  Insist on seeing the receipt it produced.  If the agent won't show you, they are almost certainly concealing a winning notification.

Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, KEYC, Lottery Post Staff

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30 comments. Last comment 8 years ago by PrisonerSix.
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charmed7's avatar - Lottery-013.jpg
MICHIGAN
United States
Member #65282
September 22, 2008
1992 Posts
Offline
Posted: March 30, 2009, 10:35 am - IP Logged

It's hard out here for everyone.  Some have had to trim the FAT, alittle

more than others,  some people get desperate, make wrong choses

Its not worth goin to JAIL    Paris Jail Sentence

    Avatar

    United States
    Member #72894
    March 30, 2009
    27 Posts
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    Posted: March 30, 2009, 11:27 am - IP Logged

    Not to be racist or lump everyone together stereotypically, but look at the names of the accused.  After they get through the legal system, maybe the Immigration system should check them out.

      JAP69's avatar - alas
      South Carolina
      United States
      Member #6
      November 4, 2001
      8790 Posts
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      Posted: March 30, 2009, 11:43 am - IP Logged

      Not to be racist or lump everyone together stereotypically, but look at the names of the accused.  After they get through the legal system, maybe the Immigration system should check them out.

      Yea  I noticed that too.

      WHATT

        Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
        Chief Bottle Washer
        New Jersey
        United States
        Member #1
        May 31, 2000
        23259 Posts
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        Posted: March 30, 2009, 2:38 pm - IP Logged

        One can imagine that this article (the subject matter) is a hot topic of conversation among lottery directors.  Hopefully every state lottery has done this, or is planning to do this — undercover ticket redemption.

        I hope that while they are going through this process that they also note which retailers refuse to pay out the prize.  There is nothing more aggravating than taking a winning ticket to a retailer only to be told "we can't cash that ticket." 

        If a store wants to be a lottery retailer, they should be required to cash all winning tickets less than $600, no ifs, ands, or buts.

         

        Check the State Lottery Report Card
        What grade did your lottery earn?

         

        Sign the Petition for True Lottery Drawings
        Help eliminate computerized drawings!

          Littleoldlady's avatar - basket
          Clarksville
          United States
          Member #487
          July 15, 2002
          17638 Posts
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          Posted: March 30, 2009, 2:54 pm - IP Logged

          I noticed the names, too.  It just seems to be the trend that these are people who come into our neighborhoods and set up stores though for the life of me, I can't figure out how they do it.  They come to our counry and the next day or so, they have a store.

          If you know your number is going to hit, have patience and then KILL IT!

          You never know when you will get another hit.

            Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
            Chief Bottle Washer
            New Jersey
            United States
            Member #1
            May 31, 2000
            23259 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: March 30, 2009, 3:05 pm - IP Logged

            I noticed the names, too.  It just seems to be the trend that these are people who come into our neighborhoods and set up stores though for the life of me, I can't figure out how they do it.  They come to our counry and the next day or so, they have a store.

            Most of the time they do it by working in someone else's store for a few years to save up money for their own store.  People within the Indian community help each other out in this way -- they leapfrog off of each other.  They also hire within their own ethnic community.  Very closed-loop.  So if someone is starting a store, they will look for (and hire) others within their community who eventually want their own store.  They know their employee will work all the time, 6-7 days per week, many hours per day, and they probably pay all their overtime under the table.

             

            Check the State Lottery Report Card
            What grade did your lottery earn?

             

            Sign the Petition for True Lottery Drawings
            Help eliminate computerized drawings!


              United States
              Member #58528
              February 18, 2008
              710 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: March 30, 2009, 3:06 pm - IP Logged

              One can imagine that this article (the subject matter) is a hot topic of conversation among lottery directors.  Hopefully every state lottery has done this, or is planning to do this — undercover ticket redemption.

              I hope that while they are going through this process that they also note which retailers refuse to pay out the prize.  There is nothing more aggravating than taking a winning ticket to a retailer only to be told "we can't cash that ticket." 

              If a store wants to be a lottery retailer, they should be required to cash all winning tickets less than $600, no ifs, ands, or buts.

              I hope that while they are going through this process that they also note which retailers refuse to pay out the prize.  There is nothing more aggravating than taking a winning ticket to a retailer only to be told "we can't cash that ticket." 

              If a store wants to be a lottery retailer, they should be required to cash all winning tickets less than $600, no ifs, ands, or buts.

               

              I Agree!   I couldn't agree more.My wife recently won $500 on a scratch off ticket and we spent most of the day and most of a tank of gas looking for a lottery retailer that could (or would) cash the ticket.We finally found a retailer in another county that cashed it.I contacted the Illinois Lottery about it,so far they've ignored my email.

                Avatar

                United States
                Member #61296
                May 17, 2008
                187 Posts
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                Posted: March 30, 2009, 6:08 pm - IP Logged

                This is outrageous. Its hard enough to get people to pony up their hard earned dollars and even play the lotto these days, nevermind the difficulty in actually beating the odds and getting a payout. Now we have 2nd guess the retailers that they might be scamming us out of the $$$? I like these undercover busts- maybe it will deter a would be lotto cheat for fear of getting busted. Rant

                  maringoman's avatar - images q=tbn:ANd9GcTbRxpKQmOfcCoUqF2FyqIOAwDo7rg9G-lfJLAALPGWJWwiz19eRw
                  Massachusetts
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                  April 14, 2006
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                  Posted: March 30, 2009, 7:15 pm - IP Logged

                  I'm gonna ignore the "names and ethnicity" issue and just state my disgust for the thieving lottery clerks. I hope they be banned from ever working at places that sells lottery. If everybody just told the truth and led honest lives there would be world peace!

                    time*treat's avatar - radar

                    United States
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                    March 30, 2005
                    2171 Posts
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                    Posted: March 30, 2009, 7:18 pm - IP Logged

                    Thief of "high-stakes" begins making license plates. Clown

                    In neo-conned Amerika, bank robs you.
                    Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be the name of a convenience store, not a govnoment agency.

                      Avatar
                      New Member

                      United States
                      Member #72914
                      March 30, 2009
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                      Posted: March 30, 2009, 10:26 pm - IP Logged

                      "...Use an electronic ticket checker, if available at the store, to verify the ticket and winnings..."

                       

                      These should be mandatory at all stores that sell lottery tickets. Players can check their own tickets, which allows store employees to concentrate on store work.

                      Players don't have to bother store clerks with checking losing tickets.  And if you have a winning ticket, you will know it is a winner and how much it is worth before you hand it to the clerk. 

                      Players should not have to surrender their tickets and depend on an unknown sales clerk to tell them the truth about the status of a ticket.

                      Players should be able to check their own tickets.

                       



                        United States
                        Member #58528
                        February 18, 2008
                        710 Posts
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                        Posted: March 30, 2009, 10:37 pm - IP Logged

                        Sign your ticket before having a clerk check it.A clerk would have to be as dumb as a post to try cashing an already signed ticket.

                          Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
                          Chief Bottle Washer
                          New Jersey
                          United States
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                          May 31, 2000
                          23259 Posts
                          Offline
                          Posted: March 30, 2009, 11:37 pm - IP Logged

                          Sign your ticket before having a clerk check it.A clerk would have to be as dumb as a post to try cashing an already signed ticket.

                          I agree with that - which is why I made that point #1 of "things to do to avoid a stolen prize" at the bottom of the article.  But, the problem is that most people handing their ticket over are doing it in order to determine if it's a winner (they don't know it's a winner yet), and most people would not dream of signing every lottery ticket they get checked. 

                          (I know, some people do that, but most people don't/won't.)

                          So that's what makes the rest of the points in the article so important.  Vigilance is the most important thing.  Don't let the lottery agent bully you into letting them keep the "losing" ticket!  Don't let them "throw it away".  There is no law or rule saying they have to keep a ticket after checking it -- the ticket belongs to you!

                           

                          Check the State Lottery Report Card
                          What grade did your lottery earn?

                           

                          Sign the Petition for True Lottery Drawings
                          Help eliminate computerized drawings!

                            four4me's avatar - gate1
                            MD
                            United States
                            Member #1701
                            June 18, 2003
                            8358 Posts
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                            Posted: March 31, 2009, 12:08 am - IP Logged

                            I noticed the names, too.  It just seems to be the trend that these are people who come into our neighborhoods and set up stores though for the life of me, I can't figure out how they do it.  They come to our counry and the next day or so, they have a store.

                            In Baltimore and most other big city's most immigrants belong to a coalition the coalition works very hard to keep their coalition intact you come here get a job and a place to live provided by the coalition you pay the coalition x amount of dollars and donate some of it to the center so they can bring another family member here. It becomes a never ending circle as you live and work in the community your debt gets paid and you are free to pursue the pursuit of happiness.

                            The more money you bring with you when entering the USA the more status you can hold some immigrants already have a business plan and the necessary paper work, money and degrees to accomplish their goals.

                            If more Americans pooled their resources they could have a piece of the American dream also but for some reason the feel they must do it alone without help from anyone other than their immediate family. Sad.