Politics & Government

Clerk arrested in undercover Lottery sting

OLYMPIA - An employee of the City Limits Deli Mart in Sumner and her companion got an unpleasant surprise Monday when they traveled to Washington's Lottery headquarters to claim what they thought was a $20,000 prize, a Lottery spokeswoman said.

Olympia police arrested the two women for allegedly trying to claim the prize through fraud or deception, according to a Lottery spokeswoman.

The alleged fraud occurred Thursday, when an undercover Lottery employee posing as a customer at the store conducted a random consumer compliance check, said Lottery spokeswoman Jacque Coe.

Coe said the investigator had a specially designed winning lottery ticket, and he gave it to the employee to check whether it was a winner.

The ticket indicated it was a winner, and that the person who possessed it was due $20,000, Coe said. But an employee told the compliance officer the ticket was worth a $50 payout, Coe said.

The woman kept the ticket after giving the Lottery employee $50, she said. On Monday, the store employee and a companion tried to claim the $20,000 ticket at Washington’s Lottery headquarters on Fourth Avenue in Olympia, according to Coe. Lottery officials called Olympia police, and officers arrested the two women.

The compliance checks by Washington’s Lottery have been ongoing for about a year and are meant to test proper ticket-cashing procedures, Coe said. Monday’s arrests were the first of their kind, she added.

“This is unusual,” Coe said.

Customers at any of the Lottery’s more than 4,000 retailers must be able to rely on store clerks to give them the accurate value of their tickets, Coe said.

“Consumer protection is paramount to the integrity of the Lottery,” she said.

Coe reminded Lottery consumers that they can always check the value of a winning lottery ticket by calling the Lottery’s 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 value if a ticket is a winner, she said.

Retailers can pay out winning lottery tickets on-site only when they are valued at $600 or less, Coe said. Winning tickets in amounts 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 – she said.

Coe said anyone who buys a winning lottery ticket should sign it to make sure no one else can claim it.

Coe said the investigation into the two women arrested at Washington’s Lottery headquarters Monday is ongoing.

The Olympian is not releasing the names of the two women because they have not been charged with a crime. Both had been released from the Thurston County Jail as of Tuesday afternoon.

It remains to be seen which county prosecutor’s office will have jurisdiction over the case. Thurston County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said he was unfamiliar with the case, but that it could be filed in either Pierce or Thurston counties.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465

jpawloski@theolympian.com

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