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Longtime Mass Lottery employee fired for allegedly cashing unsold winning scratch tickets

Aug 23, 2019, 9:26 am

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Massachusetts LotteryMassachusetts Lottery: Longtime Mass Lottery employee fired for allegedly cashing unsold winning scratch ticketsRating:

A longtime sales supervisor for the Massachusetts State Lottery was fired Tuesday after he was seen cashing winning instant tickets, a state official said, sparking fear that the lottery's supposedly strict security protocols may have been violated.

David Cannistraro, a $100,000-a-year employee who had worked for the lottery since 2002, was first placed on paid administrative leave in June after another lottery employee saw him cashing tickets at a store on Cape Cod, said Chandra Allard, chief of staff at the state treasury.

Lottery officials believe he was not just playing the lottery — which is prohibited by state law for lottery employees and their immediate families — but may also have been helping himself to tickets that were returned to the New Bedford district office but were still active and could be cashed.

"We are taking this matter very seriously as the integrity of our operations is of the utmost importance," said lottery executive director Michael Sweeney in a statement. "The lottery is not only performing our own internal investigation, but has also referred this matter to the MA State Police."

In a notification to State Auditor Suzanne Bump sent on Aug. 5, lottery officials estimated that $10,000 to $15,000 in tickets were stolen, but added that the matter is still under investigation. If that number is accurate, it suggests numerous winning tickets were cashed because only prizes of less than $600 can be collected at a store. Larger prizes require the winner to go to a lottery office.

The lottery tightly controls how unsold tickets are returned and stored because until they are destroyed the tickets are active and prizes can be claimed.

When a lottery agent is terminated or a game discontinued, tickets come back in locked bags and are placed in a locked room where two employees of different departments are supposed to verify in writing that the contents match what was taken from the retail store. They are then placed in locked bins to be shredded and destroyed.

Cannistraro appears to have gained access to returned tickets, Allard said.

State Trooper Steven McKay, who is assigned to the state treasury, is investigating how the returned tickets were accessed, how often, and by whom. He is also looking at other district offices to see whether they may have security gaps, Allard said.

In his statement, director Sweeney promised to hire "an independent, outside firm to conduct an audit to ensure that proper safeguards are put in place" once McKay's investigation is finished.

Victor Matheson, a professor at the College of the Holy Cross and an expert on gambling, said the lottery should take the alleged theft seriously.

"Keeping an honest image is really an important piece of any lottery's job," Matheson said. "This is exactly the sort of thing that is very harmful to the reputation of the agency and the sort of thing that causes players to not want to participate."

He expressed surprise that a lottery employee was apparently able to gain access to unused tickets and cash them in over time without being detected.

"It's not surprising that someone tries this. It's a problem in any gambling operation," Matheson said. "It's surprising that they could get away with it and not get caught quickly."

Officials said the lottery recently put in a place a new computer system that will prevent theft by deactivating unused tickets at retail stores — before they are returned to the lottery.

The new system was put in place a few months before Cannistraro was seen cashing tickets.

State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who oversees the lottery, found out about the incident in early August and praised the employee who reported seeing Cannistraro cashing in tickets.

"The lottery is taking the appropriate steps to get to the bottom of this and I am proud that a lottery employee stepped forward to make us aware of potential wrongdoing," she said in a written statement.

Cannistraro could not be reached for comment, nor could the employee who brought the incident to the attention of his bosses. Tom McKeever, an official of SEIU local 888 which represents lottery employees, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. A lawyer for the union did not return phone calls.

This is not the first time the lottery has faced questions about the security of returned tickets.

In 2014, State Auditor Bump found that two employees did not always sign off on the ticket returns, as required, to insure the lottery had "properly accounted for, and safeguarded" tickets that had been returned from retailers who were no longer lottery agents.

Lottery officials said at the time they had put in place a system that would make sure that returned tickets were secured and destroyed.

Bump said she was troubled to learn that security weaknesses uncovered by her 2014 audit may not have been corrected.

"If these allegations are substantiated," she said, "it is indeed troubling that a supervisor engaged in these activities and that safeguards we recommended in prior audits apparently have not been fully implemented. "

State audits are generally conducted every three years, but Bump's office has not done an additional audit since 2014.

Bump said her office was planning a new audit and said "the results will be made public when that process is complete."

Boston Globe

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8 comments. Last comment 1 year ago by noise-gate.
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Avatar
Simpsonville
United States
Member #163184
January 22, 2015
2315 Posts
Offline

In this day and age of increased scrutiny glad he got caught.   Greed gets you everytime.

 

Also in MA, some state troopers under fire for payroll discrepancies.   Again, big brother is watching, you play you pay.

 

Nice paying job he lost.

    faith117's avatar - nw shadow.jpg
    McClellanville,SC
    United States
    Member #177741
    October 18, 2016
    10649 Posts
    Offline

    In this day and age of increased scrutiny glad he got caught.   Greed gets you everytime.

     

    Also in MA, some state troopers under fire for payroll discrepancies.   Again, big brother is watching, you play you pay.

     

    Nice paying job he lost.

    I Agree!

      cottoneyedjoe's avatar - cuonvFT

      United States
      Member #197033
      March 28, 2019
      574 Posts
      Offline

      So he was helping himself to unscratched tickets stored at the lottery offices, cashing in only the sub-$600 ones that he could do anonymously at a gas station. He must have occasionally come across a scratch-off worth more than $599, so what did he do with those? Destroy them? Give them to people further removed from his immediate family? Sell them? 

      It's pretty funny (to me at least) that he was only caught because a coworker saw him cashing them at some retailer. Really makes you wonder how long he could have gone undetected if only he had moderately increased his opsec -- send someone else to cash them or do it at retailers that are far away from where he lives and works. Makes you wonder how many other employees have been doing it without getting caught because they're more careful.

      ... Sooper dooper top seekrit winning numbers: 5 16 17 24 33 52 ...

        TheMeatman2005's avatar - lightening
        Brooklyn, NY
        United States
        Member #169719
        October 29, 2015
        1496 Posts
        Offline

        I guess he thought it was worth risking his $100,000 per year salary and now a possible jail sentence.

        No No Chair

        The Meatman 🥩🍗🍔🍖🍤🌭

        “The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your back pocket.” Will Rogers

        Winning happens in a flash, Like A Bolt Of Lightning!  Patriot

          GiveFive's avatar - Lottery-026.jpg
          Florida - West Coast
          United States
          Member #92605
          June 10, 2010
          4788 Posts
          Offline

          Perfect example of "Stupid is as stupid does". 

          Who in their right mind is willing to trade a $100,000 a year job for a scratch off worth maybe $50? 

          I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. (He isn't guilty until his guilt is proved in a court of law) And let's suppose he didn't steal any returned winners, and that he simply went into a store and bought a winning $50 scratch off.  And yet he was willing to risk his $100,000 a year job by being seen cashing it for a lousy 50 bucks??? 

          He'd be toast if I was a member of the jury at his trial because that's exactly what tells me that he really did get his hands on returned tickets and cashed them no matter what his defense attorney claimed at the trial.  Why be so stupid as to risk getting caught over a crummy 50 bucks?  He's stupid, but he aint that stupid.  G5

          And one more thing... if he was cashing lots of winners, then he definitely stole them cuz as we all know so well, aint anybody that lucky!!

          Players who've won large lottery jackpots have something in common. Many of them say "I've played the lottery for years, but I never won anything but small prizes."   That's normal or typical, but it's also why you should not get discouraged and stop playing.  Who knows?  Maybe someday you'll say "I've played the lottery for years...."

            cottoneyedjoe's avatar - cuonvFT

            United States
            Member #197033
            March 28, 2019
            574 Posts
            Offline

            Perfect example of "Stupid is as stupid does". 

            Who in their right mind is willing to trade a $100,000 a year job for a scratch off worth maybe $50? 

            I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. (He isn't guilty until his guilt is proved in a court of law) And let's suppose he didn't steal any returned winners, and that he simply went into a store and bought a winning $50 scratch off.  And yet he was willing to risk his $100,000 a year job by being seen cashing it for a lousy 50 bucks??? 

            He'd be toast if I was a member of the jury at his trial because that's exactly what tells me that he really did get his hands on returned tickets and cashed them no matter what his defense attorney claimed at the trial.  Why be so stupid as to risk getting caught over a crummy 50 bucks?  He's stupid, but he aint that stupid.  G5

            And one more thing... if he was cashing lots of winners, then he definitely stole them cuz as we all know so well, aint anybody that lucky!!

            I agree. He is either a total moron, or he had to have been stealing a ton of unsold scratch-offs from storage over a long period of time to make it worth his while to risk a comfortable salary in a relatively easy job. From the description of the lottery's security procedures, he must have had accomplices too. I wonder how much they were getting out of it?

            How ironic that the MA lottery makes winners' names public in the name of transparency and fostering public trust, and yet they cannot keep tabs on their own scamming employees. How ironic that winners' names and prize amounts are prominent on the MA Lottery website, and yet to find the names and salaries of public employees of the lottery I must root around the state comptroller's website. Well, I did find it, here is Cannistraro's compensation over the years

            http://cthrupayroll.mass.gov/#!/year/2018/full_time_employees,others/pay1,pay2,pay3,pay4/explore/0-0-0-0-0/department_division/LOTTERY+AND+GAMING+COMMISSION+(LOT)/0--0-0-0/position_title/Senior+Sales+Rep++MSLC/0-barChart-0-0-0/bargaining_group_title/LOT+-+SEIU+Local+888/0-barChart-0-0-0/trans_no/15670980/0-barChart-/trans_no

            In 2018 he made $101K and, judging from his general upward salary trend, was going to make at least as much this year.

            ... Sooper dooper top seekrit winning numbers: 5 16 17 24 33 52 ...

              Artist77's avatar - batman14

              United States
              Member #121741
              January 16, 2012
              7721 Posts
              Offline

              I agree. He is either a total moron, or he had to have been stealing a ton of unsold scratch-offs from storage over a long period of time to make it worth his while to risk a comfortable salary in a relatively easy job. From the description of the lottery's security procedures, he must have had accomplices too. I wonder how much they were getting out of it?

              How ironic that the MA lottery makes winners' names public in the name of transparency and fostering public trust, and yet they cannot keep tabs on their own scamming employees. How ironic that winners' names and prize amounts are prominent on the MA Lottery website, and yet to find the names and salaries of public employees of the lottery I must root around the state comptroller's website. Well, I did find it, here is Cannistraro's compensation over the years

              http://cthrupayroll.mass.gov/#!/year/2018/full_time_employees,others/pay1,pay2,pay3,pay4/explore/0-0-0-0-0/department_division/LOTTERY+AND+GAMING+COMMISSION+(LOT)/0--0-0-0/position_title/Senior+Sales+Rep++MSLC/0-barChart-0-0-0/bargaining_group_title/LOT+-+SEIU+Local+888/0-barChart-0-0-0/trans_no/15670980/0-barChart-/trans_no

              In 2018 he made $101K and, judging from his general upward salary trend, was going to make at least as much this year.

              Great info. This lack of oversight is going to help make all states anonymous. Everyone is laughing at the "transparency" argument.

              Je vous salue, Marie, pleine de grace.  We will rebuild!

                Avatar
                Chasing $ Millions.
                White Shores- California
                United States
                Member #136473
                December 12, 2012
                6393 Posts
                Offline

                CA has strict rules governing the purchase of any lottery game when it comes to their employees. l know cause l asked.

                A few years ago l spoke to two workers of the State lottery who were loading vendor machines  and they told me flat out: That not only were they prohibited from playing, but all family members living under their roofs & those living close by as well.

                Made sense.If you & l were playing our State lottery for years with no serious luck during all that time, and suddenly the lottery worker's son pulls down the $10 mil jackpot or wins a $5mil scratcher .. we bound to ask, how is that even possible?

                 * Voice of Reason *   

                 

                People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it- George Bernard Shaw.