Three store clerks allegedly took winning lottery tickets from customers and tried to collect the money themselves by telling the ticket-holders they hadn’t really won.
The people they tried to scam were undercover investigators, however, and now the three have been charged with felonies.
The Kentucky Lottery Corporation announced the sting Thursday.
The three stores involved were in Louisville, but the lottery has done similar checks elsewhere, and plans to step up efforts to guard against retailers cheating players, according to a news release.
“These tests continue to be performed, as we want players to be confident their experience at a retailer will be a positive one,” said Tom Delacenserie, president and chief executive officer of the lottery.
Undercover officers with the lottery went to 60 retailers in Louisville between February and July last year to check whether clerks were following the correct procedures to cash tickets, according to the release.
The lottery chose some of the businesses based on customer complaints, but chose others at random.
The lottery had its instant-ticket vendor create special tickets that showed they were worth $18,000 when clerks scanned them at the lottery terminal.
The undercover officers told clerks they didn’t know if the tickets were winners.
The three people indicted in Louisville allegedly told the people posing as customers that their tickets were not winners, then took them and tried to cash them themselves, according to the lottery.
The clerks had to go to the lottery’s headquarters to cash the tickets because of the amount of money, so staffers there knew immediately that the tickets had come from the investigation, according to lottery spokesman Chip Polston.
The grand jury charged Indrias Joseph, Jinalben Savadara and Divyang M. Vyas with influencing the winning of a lottery prize through coercion, fraud, deception or tampering with lottery equipment or materials, and with giving false information to the lottery in connection with an investigation.
The first charge is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison, according to the lottery.
Delacenserie said he was disappointed that three clerks allegedly tried to cheat customers, but that he believes the overwhelming majority of retailers and clerks are honest in dealing with lottery players.
Delacenserie said lottery players can protect themselves by signing the back of their tickets before giving them to a clerk to check, and can also use scanners available at nearly every location to see for themselves if a ticket is a winner.
The lottery also has a smart phone app people can use to check tickets.
People can report suspected fraud to the lottery by calling (502) 560-1813 or by way of email at firstname.lastname@example.org.