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(Toledo News Now) -
Lottery fraud by retailers is a growing problem across the country. And the first case of a crooked clerk cheating customers out of lotto winnings has found its way to northwest Ohio. In an exclusive, hidden camera investigation, Jenna Lee shows us how one woman was scamming people out of thousands, and potentially millions of dollars.
Americans buy into the lotto dream every day. Last year, $68 billion worth of tickets were bought. $19 billion were cleared in earnings, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. The majority of the time winners receive the prize payouts, and states reap the benefits.
An undercover Ohio Lottery Commission investigator says the state is dealing with billions of dollars, and he's convinced people do whatever they can to get their hands on it. Unfortunately, even if it means breaking the rules of the game and the law.
On April of 2012, two Ohio Lottery Commission investigators conducted a retail compliance inspection at Sylvan Pantry, located at 4100 North McCord Road, Sylvania, Ohio.
While one investigator remained in the parking lot, the other went inside with a $500 *winning* ticket. The clerk, Vidyaben Patel told the investigator the ticket was not a winner.
On Wednesday, May 9, 2012, the undercover investigators conducted the same retail compliance inspection at Sylvan Pantry, but this time with a "Kings of Queen" $10,000 *winning* ticket.
Again, the clerk, Vidyaben Patel, told the investigator he was a winner... of $20.
Not long after that, Patel paid a visit to the Ohio Lottery Commission's Toledo office to claim the $10,000 ticket.
She also lied on the paperwork where it asked to "check" the box if she was an employee of an Ohio lottery retailer.
The undercover investigator Jenna Lee interviewed says the Ohio Commission was tipped off after Patel filed 40 claims, totaling almost $100,000.
"$100,000 isn't a lot for one person .. but 40 claims is quite a bit for one person."
On the day Patel attempted to cash the investigator's $10,000 ticket with her daughter alongside her, the cameras were rolling. She was quickly read her Miranda Rights, but immediately asked for a lawyer.
Patel was charged with two counts of theft by deception, perjury and telecommunication fraud. Court documents show she plead guilty, and was sentenced to jail time, probation and fines.
Overall, the Ohio Lottery Commission has carried out 376 investigations since 2010, and arrested 40 people for lottery fraud.
The Patel case was the first of its kind in Northwest Ohio.
Six other retailers in Lucas County received a visit by undercover commission workers, but unlike Sylvan Pantry, all six did the right thing.