Former cashier caught stealing a scratch-off ticket worth $20,000
By Kate Northrop
JENSEN BEACH, Fla. — A Florida woman was convicted for altering lottery tickets and stealing ones she knew were winners, including a ticket worth $20,000.
A Florida Lottery retailer realized that something was amiss when they discovered "micro-scratches" present on $50 and $10 scratch-off tickets last June, putting an end to one of their employees' schemes.
Christine Nicole Fenton-Gilbert, 39, is no longer employed at the Rebel convenience store on Northwest Federal Highway in Jensen Beach. Instead, she is facing years in prison for altering lottery tickets and pocketing the ones she knew were winners.
The Florida Department of Lottery launched an investigation on June 14, 2022 into Fenton-Gilbert while she was working at the store. After authorities combined evidence from video surveillance footage and statements she gave after being confronted with altered tickets exhibiting "micro-scratches" on the play area, she was arrested on July 13, 2022.
Fenton-Gilbert, who was hired in August 2021, was indeed altering scratch-off tickets to "expose play data underneath" and "was observed using her fingernail to alter multiple Florida Lottery tickets," officials found.
She would then "either push the tickets back into the dispenser or leave the tickets attached to the books where they were available for sale to the public," Lottery Special Agent Bradley A. Trombley said in a criminal complaint.
The Rebel store Loss Prevention Manager initially discovered the problem on June 14, 2022 and quickly came to the conclusion that Fenton-Gilbert was a prime suspect.
In the investigation, she was observed on surveillance video footage scraping the bottom corner of scratch-off tickets "with what appeared to be her nail to uncover the PIN," Trombley continued.
On May 7, 2022, she discovered that a rather pricey ticket had been sitting in the case.
"One $20,000 winning scratch-off ticket was scanned but not validated," Trombley wrote. "After she confirmed the winning ticket of $20,000, she paid for the scratch-off ticket from cash in her back pocket."
Store footage between June 12 and June 13, 2022 documented Fenton-Gilbert "during her scheduled shift, pulling the ticket, scratching, and verifying the winnings."
In just the two-day period alone, she was accused of taking $1,196 in winnings from tickets she did not pay for. The retailer suspended and later terminated her on June 16, 2022 "for theft."
Fenton-Gilbert told Trombley over the phone days later that "sometimes tickets got caught in the plastic dispenser that holds the lottery tickets for sale [and] would leave scratch marks on the tickets."
"She also advised that she has 'long nails' and that could be another reason they were scratched," Trombley noted.
She reported to him that she had purchased $50 scratch-off tickets about ten times over the course of three months.
Regarding the $20,000 winning ticket, she said she "gave it to her father-in-law... to cash because she did not have identification." While she claimed "she gave him 'a chunk of it,'" she later "admitted to keeping all $15,000 after taxes were taken out."
Fenton-Gilbert was found guilty of 16 counts of forging lottery tickets by Circuit Judge William Roby and was sentenced to 18 months of prison for each count to be served consecutively. She was also given 13 years of probation for one count of grand theft and ordered to pay $20,000 to the Florida Lottery and $1,196 to the Rebel store in restitution.
The maximum sentence she faced was 95 years in prison, but she struck a plea deal with the state on Feb. 9 that demanded she plead no contest to 17 felonies. Records indicate that prosecutors then dropped one count of organized fraud.
"The plea deal involved a sentence which was more than the minimum," Assistant State Attorney David Lustgarten said after court. "In a nutshell, she's going to prison on her first felonies and that doesn't happen too often."
Lustgarten remarked that Fenton-Gilbert's sentence was a "fair resolution" and that she cooperated with law enforcement and did not have a notable criminal record.
Michael Ohle, Fenton-Gilbert's attorney, said by pleading no-contest, she "got the least permissible sentence under the color of the law to resolve our case."
Lustgarten said that the former store clerk must have had to know her crimes were being recorded by the video cameras present inside the store, calling her actions "brazen" and a "violation of trust."
"She was, in effect, stealing from both her employer, as well as the state of Florida, on camera," Lustgarten said.