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Store clerk accused of stealing $1M lottery ticket from customer

Mega MillionsMega Millions: Store clerk accused of stealing $1M lottery ticket from customer

DALLAS, Tx. — Willis Willis may have had the winning lottery ticket, but it was the convenience store clerk who had his number.

As authorities tell it, years of playing the Texas lottery finally paid off for the Grand Prairie man in May when he walked into the Lucky Food Store with a million-dollar ticket.

But in a double twist of tortured fortune, an opportunistic clerk may have cheated him out of his ticket and his treasure.

Now, while Willis waits to be a millionaire, police are searching for the accused fraudster, who might be half a world away.

Until he disappeared this summer — shortly before police seized his bank account — Pankaj Joshi was a trusted clerk at the Lucky Food Store in Grand Prairie.

"He was an OK guy," said Masudur Rahman, who worked with the 25-year-old University of Texas-Arlington student for four years. "We never doubted him."

Neither did the 67-year-old Willis, who regularly cashed his checks and bought his lottery tickets at the convenience store.

Willis, a maintenance man and father of four, chose his numbers based on family birthdays and played the same slip until it could "no longer be read by the terminal," according to a police affidavit.

"He's a guy living day to day," said his lawyer, Randy Howry, who met with Willis on Wednesday in Austin.

The Lucky Food Store finally earned its name for Willis on May 29, when he spent $20 from a $238 check on three lottery tickets.

Investigators said a Mega Millions ticket from that purchase won big at a drawing a few hours later, though Willis wouldn't know it for months.

In hindsight, Willis may have missed several opportunities to prevent the ensuing debacle.

He never saw the drawing on TV, he later told investigators, because he didn't know how to find it.

He might have read about the winning numbers but he recently stopped buying the newspaper.

Willis wasn't in the habit of signing his tickets — a simple safeguard that would have made any attempt to defraud him of his winnings "difficult, if not impossible," according to a spokesman for the Texas Lottery Commission in Austin, Texas, where the case is being prosecuted.

Lucky Food Store even has an automatic ticket checker. But after four years as a customer, Willis trusted the clerks to check.

"He couldn't believe that (Joshi) would do something," Rahman said. "He knew him as well as he knew me."

The day after the drawing, when Rahman told Joshi that their store had sold a million-dollar ticket, the clerk laughed and seemed as surprised as everyone else, Rahman said.

But by the time Willis walked in the next day, police said, Joshi had hatched the most dastardly of get-rich-quick schemes.

As he always did, Willis handed the clerk his tickets, and Joshi dutifully handed him back a $2 prize for one of them.

The clerk, according to the affidavit, neglected to mention that another ticket was worth $1 million.

Willis might never have learned of his would-be fortune's misfortune if Joshi's coworkers hadn't sleuthed it out.

Rahman said he and the Lucky Food Store manager got suspicious when Joshi turned in his notice two weeks after the drawing — saying he was moving back to Nepal to help his cousin with her perfume store.

Alarm bells rang when the men learned that Joshi had claimed the prize from a lottery center in Austin, Texas. In four years, they said, they had never seen him buy a lottery ticket.

The men tried to call Joshi to confront him, Rahman said, but he wouldn't pick up the phone.

At the end of July, two months after the drawing, the Lucky Store manager tipped off the Texas Lottery Commission.

A commission investigator visited the store and, after poring over receipts, determined Willis had bought the winning ticket.

When the investigator called the almost-millionaire, Willis said he hadn't suspected a thing.

After securing search warrants, Austin police raided four of Joshi's suddenly swelling bank accounts in September. The Travis County district attorney's office said it has so far seized $365,000 of the $750,000 the clerk was awarded. (The IRS, which wins no matter what, got a quarter of the prize.)

Last month, a grand jury indicted Joshi with claiming a lottery prize by fraud. Because of the eye-popping dollar figure, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

But the clerk seems to be long gone. Howry said he fears he's high-tailed it to Asia with the bulk of his client's cash.

As for Willis?

After being jilted by Lady Luck, he's frustrated, but not angry and is hoping to recover whatever he can, Howry said.

"He knows (some of) the money's been collected," he said. "He knows he has to jump through hoops to claim it. He's been amazingly patient with the whole process."

And amazingly optimistic, too.

As he has done for years, Howry said, Willis continues to play the lottery.

Just not at the Lucky Food Store.

Dallas Morning News

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32 comments. Last comment 7 years ago by RJOh.
Page 1 of 3
s5thomps's avatar - Lottery-033.jpg
Hard Luck, Ak
United States
Member #23472
October 13, 2005
275 Posts
Posted: October 22, 2009, 7:44 am - IP Logged

Well I'm glad they were able to at least seize part of the money! I wonder why it took the store manager 2 months to notify the lottery commission?  This should be a lesson to Mr. Willis to never trust a clerk with lottery tickets and to check his own darn tickets! All he had to do was to get a print out of the winning numbers from the store clerk. They will print out the numbers for you upon request and he could have compared the numbers to his ticket in the privacy of his own home. Once he found out he had a winner he should have signed the ticket and contacted the Lottery commission. (By the way who in the hell haves the same first and last name?) Willis Willis, you have got to be kidding me!


                    "You Make a living by what you earn, You make a life by what you give!"

                                                               Sir Winston Churchill


                        I got my shades on waiting for the sun to shine my way!       Sun Smiley

                                                               JAY-Z   The Blueprint

    kumazi30's avatar - Lottery-050.jpg
    Detroit MI
    United States
    Member #62961
    July 14, 2008
    22 Posts
    Posted: October 22, 2009, 8:45 am - IP Logged

    This is why I always sign my tickets and do not let any convenience store or liquor store clerk check it for me. I do it myself. I am happy he will be getting at least some of his money. Shame on that convenience store clerk!

      United States
      Member #79361
      August 30, 2009
      93 Posts
      Posted: October 22, 2009, 9:02 am - IP Logged

      Why do they take them to the convenience store?

      Trust no one.

      Check online and take it to the branch office.

        x1kosmic's avatar - neptune vg2.gif

        United States
        Member #48046
        December 7, 2006
        1699 Posts
        Posted: October 22, 2009, 10:09 am - IP Logged

        The young Clerk knows he did something wrong

           I wouldn't like that cloud hanging over my head

              I wonder how well he sleeps at night?  Bed

          dpoly1's avatar - driver
          United States
          Member #66141
          October 16, 2008
          1672 Posts
          Posted: October 22, 2009, 10:09 am - IP Logged

          I check my own tickets - not difficult !

          By the way, 2 Powerball Winners and nothing on LotteryPost ?!?!?!?!?!?!


            qwerty928's avatar - moon

            United States
            Member #65434
            September 26, 2008
            430 Posts
            Posted: October 22, 2009, 10:46 am - IP Logged

            How stupid can one person be ?

            He does not watch drawings, it takes seconds to check in the newspaper, ask for a number printout

            any of those would told him it was a winner then he should  of signed the ticket

            what really should made him suspicious he megaplied so winning 2 dollars is impossible

              rcbbuckeye's avatar - Lottery-043.jpg
              United States
              Member #55889
              October 23, 2007
              5588 Posts
              Posted: October 22, 2009, 10:53 am - IP Logged

              How stupid can one person be ?

              He does not watch drawings, it takes seconds to check in the newspaper, ask for a number printout

              any of those would told him it was a winner then he should  of signed the ticket

              what really should made him suspicious he megaplied so winning 2 dollars is impossible

              Excellent point on the megaply.

              I buy my tics at the same convenience store all the time, and while the people that own the store are the ones that I usually buy from, and they are very nice, I always, always check my tics at home before I go to cash them in. I know how much I won before I go.

                time*treat's avatar - radar

                United States
                Member #13130
                March 30, 2005
                2171 Posts
                Posted: October 22, 2009, 11:15 am - IP Logged

                "The IRS, which wins no matter what ..." Troll

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

                  kennedygrandma's avatar - nw shadow.jpg
                  gastonia nc
                  United States
                  Member #54044
                  August 2, 2007
                  984 Posts
                  Posted: October 22, 2009, 11:51 am - IP Logged

                  The clerk that stole the winnig ticket will not get anything good from it. He will lose the money one way or another.

                  You cannot do people like that and get away with it.Something will happen to him sooner or later.

                    ThatScaryChick's avatar - x1MqPuM
                    United States
                    Member #56506
                    November 21, 2007
                    6537 Posts
                    Posted: October 22, 2009, 12:11 pm - IP Logged

                    I would never trust a clerk or anyone else for that matter, to check my tickets. I always check my tickets online first. Always. That way, I know what I won ahead of time. These stories, are way to common to end up trusting a ticket that could be worth thousands or millions to a clerk that you barely know.

                    "No one remembers the person who almost climbed the mountain, only the person who eventually gets to the top."

                      konane's avatar - wallace
                      Atlanta, GA
                      United States
                      Member #1265
                      March 13, 2003
                      3333 Posts
                      Posted: October 22, 2009, 12:39 pm - IP Logged

                      Check your own tickets yourself .....  sign ticket first and make copies of signed ticket.

                      Call lottery hotline for winning numbers

                      Check lottery website for winning numbers

                      Check Lottery Post for winning numbers

                      Check USAMega.com for winning numbers

                      Use self check terminals to check your ticket

                      Ask for winning print outs from lottery terminals .... but ...

                      Do not let the winning ticket leave your hands until you turn it in at the state lottery office.

                      Good luck to everyone!

                        diamondpalace's avatar - Untitled 2.jpg
                        Dallas, TX
                        United States
                        Member #60284
                        April 12, 2008
                        3856 Posts
                        Posted: October 22, 2009, 1:08 pm - IP Logged

                        I think a guide on how to check, and cash in your ticket is needed. With all the guides on how to filter and select numbers seemed not as important when comes to the final few steps in claiming it! Too many of these kind of stories really makes you wonder the capability of human nature.

                          maringoman's avatar - images q=tbn:ANd9GcTbRxpKQmOfcCoUqF2FyqIOAwDo7rg9G-lfJLAALPGWJWwiz19eRw
                          United States
                          Member #37433
                          April 14, 2006
                          2747 Posts
                          Posted: October 22, 2009, 3:24 pm - IP Logged

                          What a scambug, I hope they extradite him from wherever he ran off to and send him to jail.

                          A life without honor and integrity is not worth living. I'm broke but I ain't gonna cheat, I just cut back on things.

                           I'm glad the coworkers did the right thing.

                            OldSchoolPa's avatar - Lottery-057.jpg
                            Gurnee, Illinois
                            United States
                            Member #49731
                            February 12, 2007
                            917 Posts
                            Posted: October 22, 2009, 3:49 pm - IP Logged

                            I check my own tickets - not difficult !

                            By the way, 2 Powerball Winners and nothing on LotteryPost ?!?!?!?!?!?!


                            Well one is a case of someone who didn't really need to win the lottery winning the lottery...the Doctor; the other is a cheesehead.  I think the Sargento (imagine that...the other 100 or so cheeseheads) powerball winners were the highlight of Powerball winners from Wisconsin.  Better to highlight the scandals.  But congrats to the Dr. who is going to funnel much of his winnings to charity and the cheesehead who lost his brother a few years ago...now it's my time to shine and win!

                            But if the Doc is a smart man, he will actually keep a nice portion of that jackpot for himself as Papa Obama, the taxing Demo Congress, and the cronies at IRS (who are alleged to have applied for tens of millions of the first time homebuyer $8,000 tax credit for which THEY did not qualify) come after him with the pending huge tax hikes and inevitable audits.  Isn't it something when the Congressman heading the Ways and Means Committee (Rangel) and others in the current Obama administration can get away with blatant tax fraud and evasion while a good guy golfer like Jim Thorpe and actor like Wesley Snipes are facing huge fines and prison time for the very same offenses!  Smells of a double standard.  Me thinks I need to get elected to public office so I can enjoy some of that double standard immunity!  Heck along the way, I might even hit the jackpot!

                            Get MONEY!!! Winning a JACKPOT lottery is all the HOPE and CHANGE I desire!!!  NOW give me MONEY!US Flag

                            The guy who won the presidency in 2008 really won the lottery...he is now millions richer, travels in first class style, and even has a staff that would be the envy of the richest Powerball winner (she has a staff of 2). Every night he goes to sleep, he probably plays the close of Dave Chappelle's Show: I'm rich beyatch!