The ex-store manager of a Bangor, Pennsylvania, area gas station pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that she stole instant lottery tickets that cost the station a little more than $74,000 over three years.
While Tolino Fuel Service officials said Michelle Ann Zucal, 39, of Bangor had admitted to stealing lottery tickets, defense attorney Gregory Paglianite tried to raise questions as to how they know Zucal was responsible for the store's entire loss.
During sometimes heated exchanges with Paglianite, accountant Cynthia Musante testified that Zucal confessed to stealing lottery tickets in 2009, and the money was missing during the time Zucal was store manager. Store managers, she testified, are the only people who had access to the tickets.
''Unless the lottery is scamming us out of tickets, she took them,'' Musante said, referring to Zucal.
The nearly two-hour preliminary hearing before District Judge John Capobianco of Nazareth provided an inside look at the detailed accounting of lottery tickets, and how it took the Washington Township company nearly three years to uncover such a substantial discrepancy.
The Pennsylvania Lottery, which benefits the state's older residents, tracks tickets by serial numbers on the packs and numbers on the cards so the state knows where each card is delivered and what the winnings will be.
It sometimes takes several months for the state to ''settle'' with the store on how much it owes for the tickets. The state takes 95 percent of the sale minus the winnings that the store pays out, according to court testimony. The store follows its own protocol, mapping out exactly when and which cards are sold.
At the end of 2009, general manager Dave Shaye testified he found scratched-off, winning lottery tickets in the Tolino Fuel Service office at 225 Flicksville Road. The tickets weren't accompanied by the necessary validation documents and receipts.
Shaye notified police and while Musante was present, Shaye said he questioned Zucal about the scratched-off tickets. Zucal confessed and he fired her, according to Shaye. Prompted by the confession, Musante audited the store's lottery books and found a $74,129 discrepancy since 2007.
Capobianco decided there was enough evidence to send the case to Northampton County Court. Zucal is charged with theft and receiving stolen property.
Thanks to truesee for the tip.