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N.C. lottery store owners, employees winning big and often

North Carolina LotteryNorth Carolina Lottery: N.C. lottery store owners, employees winning big and often
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Some of the same people who sell North Carolina Education Lottery tickets are winning big and winning often — and that makes some people suspicious.

Of the lottery retailers winning prizes, some are amassing significant jackpots repeatedly — $100,000, $300,000, and $500,000 prizes — dozens of times a year.

Is it just dumb luck? Or do these insiders have some kind of inside track? And what is the state doing about it?

A regular lottery player first brought the pattern of retailers winning the lottery to the attention of the NewsChannel 36 I-Team. Since then the I-team has pored over thousands of records of lottery winnings in spreadsheets obtained from the lottery under the Open Records Act. Some winners clearly stand out.

Brenda Pope lives near Salisbury and plays the lottery every week. She closely watches the list of winners updated daily online. "I noticed that the same names seemed to be popping up all the time," Pope says.

Some retailers — the same people selling the lottery tickets — are winning multiple jackpots. "It's kind of like being struck by lightning five, six, seven times," she says.

One case in point:  the B&S Variety store, a small convenience market located just off Interstate 40 near Morganton. The owner of the store, Becky Ozmun, won a dozen jackpots in about 13 months — including a $10,000 payout and a $150,000 prize.

"There's no secret," Ozmun says from behind the counter, "I just scratch 'em off." Ozmun says it's just luck. When asked if it's fair for owners to play the game, she replies, "My money's as good as anybody else's." She flatly denies owners have any advantage over any other player.

It's perfectly legal for retailers like Becky Ozmun to play the lottery in North Carolina and every other state in the U.S. which collectively rake in billions in the name of education. And she's hardly the only store owner who sells tickets who has won big jackpots.

Since January of 2008 — when the NC Lottery began asking winners to declare whether they were retailers or employed by retailers — at least 462 retailers have told the state they won jackpots over $600 each. At least 70 won more than once according to state records.

But these numbers depend on how forthcoming owners and clerks are when they answer the form. State lottery officials can check owners' forms against a database of social security numbers — unavailable to the public — but it's harder to pin down just who's working behind the counter at a convenience mart selling lottery tickets.

Repeat winner Becky Ozmun says it's a pretty simple process, "You just fill out a form. They ask you what you're going to do with the money."

Buried in thousands of records of winners are other retailers — store owners winning $100,000 $300,000 and almost $500,000.

And the reports show multiple winners. One employee of a store selling tickets in eastern North Carolina won 10 times in a little over a year — including a $100,000 jackpot.

An employee at a retailer south of Asheboro — himself the son of the owner — won 27 times, mostly in the Pick 3 game. Another family member at the same store won 39 times — all at the family's business.

Tell that to Brenda Pope — the tipster who first raised the question about retailers winning in North Carolina — and she says "I can't believe someone is that lucky."

But mention repeat winners to Tom Shaheen, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Education Lottery, and he says, "Anything in life can happen."

Shaheen doesn't see a big problem. "If there were thousands of cases of this I would say yes there is a problem." But Shaheen says retailers win a lot because they play a lot. "We have had retailers that have won multiple times but no different from other players," he says.

Shaheen says the Lottery investigates complaints to its complaint line. But unlike some states North Carolina does not conduct stings to catch dishonest clerks.

In an infamous case in Camarillo, California, security camera video records the moment when a store clerk sets aside a ticket worth $500,000, never informing the customer in front of him that he's just won.

"That clerk tried to claim it," says Bill Hertoghe, chief investigator for the California Lottery. "Because of video evidence we're able to determine it was a theft."

But when Shaheen is asked about North Carolina clerks who pay the wrong amount on a ticket, he says "We pay the player the difference and we charge back the retailer." California more aggressively pursues such cases for possible prosecution.

As Becky Ozmun answers questions about her winning streak, her husband Shelby chimes in about what can happen if clerks pay the wrong amount on a winning ticket. "What are they going to do if they catch you? 'Oh — I'm sorry — I misread it' or whatever."

Both Ozmuns say they're honest, won every jackpot fair and square, and will even alert winners to jackpots they haven't noticed. They say that's why B&S Variety is the number two lottery seller in the western region, which includes Asheville.

But Shelby Ozmun's comment — "What are they going to do if they catch you?" — speaks to the enforcement climate in North Carolina.

California scrutinizes repeat winners. When asked what he would do if he saw a store owner in California win a dozen times, investigator Bill Hertoghe says, "We would subject that person to a claims investigation every time they submitted a claim."

There's little evidence Becky Ozmun has been through such an investigation. When asked if lottery investigators ever came to her store to verify she was the one that bought the winning ticket, Becky Ozmun says, "No. Just sign the paper over in Raleigh."

It's enough to make a regular player like Brenda Pope suspicious.

NewsChannel 36

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55 comments. Last comment 8 years ago by JordanT1021.
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Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
Chief Bottle Washer
New Jersey
United States
Member #1
May 31, 2000
23262 Posts
Online
Posted: May 1, 2009, 2:51 pm - IP Logged

N.C. needs to get on the stick and start conducting these investigations/sting operations that other states have been doing.

The whiff of fraud is unacceptable.

 

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

 

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

    charmed7's avatar - Lottery-013.jpg
    MICHIGAN
    United States
    Member #65282
    September 22, 2008
    1992 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: May 1, 2009, 3:18 pm - IP Logged

    Sound like some of their cousins from California! who were stealing

    folks  winner tickets.

      RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
      mid-Ohio
      United States
      Member #9
      March 24, 2001
      19825 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: May 1, 2009, 3:27 pm - IP Logged

      The owner of the store, Becky Ozmun, won a dozen jackpots in about 13 months - including a $10,000 payout and a $150,000 prize.

      One employee of a store selling tickets in eastern North Carolina won 10 times in a little over a year - including a $100,000 jackpot.

      Sounds like these store owners and their employees have a pretty good system - winning a lottery jackpot almost every month while their customers are lucky if they win a jackpot once in a life time.

       * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
         
                   Evil Looking       

        Raven62's avatar - binary
        New Jersey
        United States
        Member #17843
        June 28, 2005
        49725 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: May 1, 2009, 3:35 pm - IP Logged

        Being around the Lottery Day In and Day Out makes many a Lottery Retailer an avid Lottery Player:

        Truth Be Known: The more you Play, The more you Win!

        A mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions!

          RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
          mid-Ohio
          United States
          Member #9
          March 24, 2001
          19825 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: May 1, 2009, 3:45 pm - IP Logged

          Being around the Lottery Day In and Day Out makes many a Lottery Retailer an avid Lottery Player:

          Truth Be Known: The more you Play, The more you Win!

          Where I buy my tickets, being around the lottery day in and day out give the store owner and her employees more chances to say to their customers "good luck and remember me if you win the jackpot".

           * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
             
                       Evil Looking       

            Littleoldlady's avatar - basket
            Clarksville
            United States
            Member #487
            July 15, 2002
            17638 Posts
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            Posted: May 1, 2009, 5:14 pm - IP Logged

            Smells like rotten fish to me. some jackpots like P3 or P4 for instance..granted but scratch offs?  I don't think so.  Someone needs to investigate them.  If stores are winning that much, the players can't be winning anything. How in the world can a store repeatedly cash in a winning scratch off? They would have to have someone who scratched for them everyday..all day!  How do they know where the big winners are?  Are they concentrated in one spot or one area? 

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

            You never know when you will get another hit.

              Avatar
              New Member
              WILMINGTON NC
              United States
              Member #74046
              May 1, 2009
              1 Posts
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              Posted: May 1, 2009, 6:05 pm - IP Logged

              I recently bought some pick four the first day they started the game, bought a few and one ticket had all three of the numbers picked but the last number was a 0 not a four thought I would have won a few dollars not the jackpot but vender scanned the ticket said it was not a winner so I e-mailed lottery officials and the numbers have to be all the same of night it was picked made my mind up not to play this game again.

              I am sticking with power ball.

              But its probably all rigged as to who wins the large amounts.

                RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                mid-Ohio
                United States
                Member #9
                March 24, 2001
                19825 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: May 1, 2009, 8:16 pm - IP Logged

                I recently bought some pick four the first day they started the game, bought a few and one ticket had all three of the numbers picked but the last number was a 0 not a four thought I would have won a few dollars not the jackpot but vender scanned the ticket said it was not a winner so I e-mailed lottery officials and the numbers have to be all the same of night it was picked made my mind up not to play this game again.

                I am sticking with power ball.

                But its probably all rigged as to who wins the large amounts.

                Aren't the rules of the game posted on the back of the play slips and at the lottery website?   Or did you just read the pick3 game rules and thought they applied to the pick4 game too?

                 * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning ticket * 
                   
                             Evil Looking       

                  trulyblessed's avatar - yocco
                  Durham, North Carolina
                  United States
                  Member #58710
                  February 23, 2008
                  6856 Posts
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                  Posted: May 1, 2009, 8:42 pm - IP Logged

                  I'm glad that someone shed light on this. I don't think store workers should be able to buy lottery tickets from the store they work in. I've seen many times where customers go in a store, buy 10 tickets from a roll and win nothing. Then the clerks/owners will buy the next 10 or so and win. One store I stood and watched this while waiting for someone. It pissed me off. I've even seen one lady writing down pick 3 numbers that customers are playing.

                  I really don't think that ncel will do anything about it!!

                  Lovies

                    Kaptainess's avatar - hiro bird.jpg

                    United States
                    Member #63356
                    July 26, 2008
                    1427 Posts
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                    Posted: May 1, 2009, 9:11 pm - IP Logged

                    I have posted many times about this guy at the store in which I play my lottery, he can call the winner all the time, even prints out a ticket without me asking and hands it to me.  Once he gave me one of those instant tickets that was for promotional and it was a winner.  Mind you, I always play the 3 digits, sometimes I 'get' a four digit in my workout that I can't ignore. 

                    But I think working with numbers as I did as a cashier at Giant Food Market did a world of good for me with numbers, the same numbers would come up for the total sale, so I would play it, most times it would win.

                    I know it sounds fishy that they would keep winning, but if you have that type of a job working with the lottery all day you are bound to see a pattern of numbers that other lottery players are playing.  Just like on Lottery Post, go to predictions and see what everyone else is predicting and make deductions.  I even trid HARD to get behind the counter with the lottery machine because I thought it would give me an edge.  LoL!

                    Once it has hit the media things will be done, investigations, mistery shoppers, all kinds of attemps to find out the truth.   

                    They changed the machines in PA so that the clerk doesn't touch the tickets for validation anymore, the customer puts the ticket under a scanner and the amount shows up on a screen and the clerk pays you.  Now, we have to have the State FORCE the retailers to PAY the customer the amount and not tell them it will be paid via check/money order.  Or flat out refusing to pay at all.  Once it took me a week of running around and then a 50 mile trip out of town to get my straight 500.00 ticket cashed before I found my current retailer.

                    It may come down to using a stand alone machine to cut the fraud soon.  The stand alone machines now are horrible, not user friendly, but I don't expect much from the PA Government when its not what you know but who you know. 

                    Maybe I should see if I can get another job at the market on the lottery counter?

                      diamondpalace's avatar - Untitled 2.jpg
                      Dallas, TX
                      United States
                      Member #60284
                      April 12, 2008
                      3856 Posts
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                      Posted: May 1, 2009, 9:35 pm - IP Logged

                      Each state's lottery commissions should step in and do investigations on suspicious stores. This to protect their good names and keep player's confident. Or perhaps open up the official online lotto purchase (to save the middle man, retailers) system for players. Providing accuracy and convenience.

                        lottobrain's avatar - box
                        Smyrna, DE
                        United States
                        Member #10074
                        January 1, 2005
                        125 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: May 1, 2009, 10:22 pm - IP Logged

                        I'm glad that someone shed light on this. I don't think store workers should be able to buy lottery tickets from the store they work in. I've seen many times where customers go in a store, buy 10 tickets from a roll and win nothing. Then the clerks/owners will buy the next 10 or so and win. One store I stood and watched this while waiting for someone. It pissed me off. I've even seen one lady writing down pick 3 numbers that customers are playing.

                        I really don't think that ncel will do anything about it!!

                        I think Trulyblessed is on to the main technique that these winning stores use.  They watch the sale of tickets on the particular games that have the big jackpots and buy tickets after they see customers not win for several tickets.  I have also observed this myself in a Maryland store.  The state lotteries usually send a lot of big winning instant tickets to the stores that are producing the most profit for the state to keep the customers coming, so the owners know that their odds are better than lesser retailers of getting a roll of tickets with the $10,000 - $100,000 winners. I personally don't buy the instant tickets for this reason and mainly because it is just plain luck with no skill to win something.  The same goes for slot machines in today's casinos.  They are all computerized and connected to a mainframe that allows the casino to instantly change the odds on any machine.  I have noticed while playing these that every 10 minutes or so, as one goes to place a bet, the machine will freeze for a few seconds, the lights might flicker once, and then one can make a bet.  If you had been winning a little, you may start to now lose.  This cycle keeps repeating during the hour as they slowly bleed you of your money.  Of course they also "move" some of your money up the line to another machine where someone gets lucky and wins big, but overall for the night, the casino takaes in a hefty profit.

                          Raven62's avatar - binary
                          New Jersey
                          United States
                          Member #17843
                          June 28, 2005
                          49725 Posts
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                          Posted: May 1, 2009, 10:35 pm - IP Logged

                          Where I buy my tickets, being around the lottery day in and day out give the store owner and her employees more chances to say to their customers "good luck and remember me if you win the jackpot".

                          What?

                          A mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions!

                            dx123's avatar - white face.jpg
                            somewhere
                            Canada
                            Member #39919
                            May 24, 2006
                            150 Posts
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                            Posted: May 2, 2009, 12:28 am - IP Logged

                            This is not hard to believe that some store owners who sell lottery scratch-offs win often. In Ontario Canada in the '70's these were the only 'type' of tickets sold-no lottery organization like we have today and store owners would take their batch of scratch-offs home and examine them under intense light and were able to identify the winners from the losers. They won everytime they scratched the ticket for the covering scratch-off material was not thick enough to hide the numbers below. That has all changed now but my suspicions remain. If there is a will there is a way. Some store owners can do things you can't do!

                            yt

                            dx123