A Ohio woman accused of altering a lottery ticket to claim a $25,000 prize went on trial yesterday, with both sides agreeing that the ticket shown to jurors was a poor fake.
Brenda Alexander of Elyria could face up to 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine if she is found guilty of one count each of forgery and attempted theft.
"The defendant gimmicked the ticket," said Lorain County Assistant Prosecutor Steve List, telling the jury that Alexander cut out the $2 million symbol that originally appeared on the ticket and used clear tape to replace it with the number $25,000 from another ticket.
"This is not a sophisticated attempt at forgery ladies and gentlemen," List told the jury, calling the act a childish attempt to rip off the state.
"This ticket was no good. It wasn't worth the $25,000 it may have appeared to be worth. No dispute," said defense attorney Christopher Rothgery in his opening statements.
He argued instead that Alexander didn't alter the ticket herself and that she truly believed it was a valid ticket.
Rothgery said Alexander's husband, Rick, found the ticket in an Elyria store and brought it home.
According to testimony, Rick Alexander would often go through a garbage can of old tickets at Jimmy's Beverage Warehouse in Elyria, looking for winners that had been overlooked, and on Dec. 7, 2000, he found a scratch-off lottery ticket showing the figure $25,000 three times -- indicating it was a winner.
He showed the ticket to his wife and the two went to the Ohio Lottery Commission regional office in Lorain to claim the prize, according to testimony.
Francine Petroskey, executive secretary with the Ohio Lottery, testified she was unable to validate the ticket by running it through a machine or typing in the numbers.
After trying to validate the ticket a second time, Petroskey said, she realized something wasn't right.
"I looked at the ticket, and I could see that it had been altered," Petroskey said.
She said the numbers were offset and she could see tape on the back.
Petroskey said she told Brenda Alexander she could fill out a customer inquiry form if she wished to question why the ticket wasn't being validated.
Alexander filled out the form, she said, and was told she would hear from the lottery agency within a few weeks.
Both of the Alexanders yesterday said the ticket being shown in court had changed since December 2000.
"It did not look anything like that," said Rick Alexander, when List showed him the ticket.
Brenda Alexander said the ticket has been scratched more and handled by many people since she and her husband first found it.
"It looked like a winner to me," Alexander said, noting the ticket her husband showed her in December 2000 did not have cut marks or tape on the back like the one prosecutors presented as evidence.
However, Petroskey testified that the ticket was the same one she had previously seen. So did Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Mike Giuliano and James Guidish, owner and operator of Jimmy's Beverage Warehouse.
Alexander told the jury she would never alter a ticket to try to collect winnings.
"I would not risk going to jail for something like that. I wouldn't risk hurting my family for something like that. I wouldn't risk hurting my family for a million dollars," she said.
The trial will continue this morning in Common Pleas Judge Thomas Janas' courtroom.