OLYMPIA - Employees of three Puget Sound-area retailers were convicted of felonies recently for fraudulently claiming a lottery prize - part of a continuing statewide sting operation started by Washington's Lottery in 2009.
The sting operations at stores are carried out by undercover lottery investigators. The investigators bring a specially designed “winning” ticket to a store and present it to a clerk. The store employees have two options: They can honestly report the winnings back to customers, or they can keep the ticket, lie by saying it’s not a winner and try to claim the cash prize.
In 2010, employees of three shops in Pierce and Mason counties tried to fraudulently claim a lottery prize. Jenny Pak, 55, of the City Limit Deli Mart in Sumner; Frederick Alan McCutchen, 28, of the Golden Smoke Gift Shop in Shelton; and David Cho, 51, formerly an employee of Barney & Bernie’s Grocery & Deli in Spanaway, were all convicted of unlawful fraudulent claim of a lottery ticket in Thurston County Superior Court.
The crime is a Class B felony. Pak was sentenced to 30 days of electronic home monitoring, Cho was sentenced to 30 days of work release from the Thurston County Jail, and McCutchen was sentenced to four months of work release from the Thurston County Jail.
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The cases were all tried in Thurston County because the suspects were not arrested until they tried to claim their prize at Washington’s Lottery headquarters in Olympia.
According to court papers, Pak tried to fraudulently claim a $20,000 prize, McCutchen tried to claim a $1,000 prize, and Cho tried to claim a $20,000 prize.
Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Thompson said pure and simple greed drives some store employees to try to fraudulently claim another’s winning lottery ticket. In Pak’s and Cho’s criminal cases, Thompson said, surveillance video from the store clearly showed the employees trying to conceal the fact that the tickets were winners.
Thompson, an experienced prosecutor, said he is not surprised that some store employees would stoop to trying to steal another’s winning ticket.
“I’m hoping that people out there realize that there are people like this that will take advantage of them, and they need to pay close attention when they have someone check their tickets,” Thompson said.
A Washington’s Lottery spokeswoman said earlier this year that consumers can always check the value of a winning lottery ticket by calling the winning numbers line at 1-800-545-7510. Stores that sell lottery tickets also should have scanners that customers can use to get an accurate reading on winners.
Retailers can pay out winning lottery tickets on-site only when they are valued at $600 or less. Winning tickets higher than that must be cashed out at one of the state’s six regional lottery offices – in Vancouver, Olympia, Federal Way, Everett, Yakima or Spokane.
Two of the stores involved in the stings that led to the three recent convictions – the City Limit Deli Mart in Sumner and the Golden Smoke Gift Shop – no longer sell lottery items, a Washington’s Lottery official said Monday.
The official said City Limit Deli Mart lost its license to sell lottery items after Pak’s conviction, though a co-owner is reapplying for that license.
Pak is a co-owner of the City Limit Deli Mart, and she is not allowed to sell or have anything to do with lottery products for five years, the lottery official said. The owner of Golden Smoke Gift Shop in Shelton voluntarily stopped selling lottery items after her son, McCutchen, was arrested in June for the lottery fraud charge.
The official said the Golden Smoke owner would have faced restrictions on her lottery license if she had not voluntarily stopped selling lottery items.
The third establishment, Barney & Bernie’s in Spanaway, had no restrictions placed on its lottery license because it was committed by a rogue employee and the owner bore no responsibility, the lottery official said.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-546 firstname.lastname@example.org