OLYMPIA - Luck was not on the side of a Shelton convenience store employee booked on suspicion of fraudulently claiming a Washington's Lottery prize.
The “winning ticket” actually was part of a sting operation carried out last week by the state lottery agency as a way to ferret out fraud, said lottery spokeswoman Jacque Coe.
Investigators with Washington’s Lottery bring specially designed “winning” tickets to see if store employees honestly report the winnings back to customers or try to keep the ticket and claim the winnings, Coe said.
“They have a right to trust that the ticket will be checked accurately and honestly,” she said. “Integrity is our top priority.”
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Unlawful fraudulent claim of a lottery ticket or prize is a Class B felony, according to state law. Stores where that type of fraud occurs also are at risk of losing their lottery license, Coe said.
Frederick Alan McCutchen, 28, of Rochester faces the felony charge of alteration of a lottery ticket, according to court papers. He was listed on the Thurston County Jail roster Monday night in lieu of $5,000 bail.
A state lottery investigator brought a fake $1,000 ticket to McCutchen’s workplace, Golden Smoke and Gifts in Shelton, on Thursday. The store is owned by McCutchen’s family, according to court papers.
The investigator told Thurston County prosecutors that McCutchen checked the ticket but kept it and told the lottery investigator it was not a winner.
On Friday, Olympia police officers were called to the state lottery headquarters at 814 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, when a man tried to claim the cash prize while McCutchen waited in the parking lot, according to charging papers.
The man who tried to claim the ticket told police that McCutchen asked him to cash it for him because he didn’t bring identification, prosecutors say. The lottery investigator identified McCutchen as the store employee who checked the ticket, court papers say.
McCutchen started apologizing for the incident when the lottery investigator introduced himself, court papers say.
Coe said people who purchase Washington’s Lottery tickets are encouraged to sign them, which would prevent someone else from claiming any winnings from that ticket.
She said that the lottery’s investigation program conducts spot checks of stores regularly and the vast majority of proprietors are honest. But this is the fourth arrest in connection with lottery fraud in recent months, she said.
“One is one too many,” Coe said.