By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
EVERETT — The man with the lottery ticket was expecting a big payday — $20,000, to be exact.
Instead, he won a ride in the back of a patrol car to the Snohomish County Jail.
Police allege the gas station convenience store worker, 62, tried to cheat a man he believed to be a customer but who was really a state lottery investigator.
Last August, the investigator handed the clerk a scratch ticket and asked him to check to see if he had won. He then stepped away to grab a drink to bring to the counter.
The clerk told him he had won $200, according to criminal charges filed in Snohomish County Superior Court on Tuesday.
The lottery investigator said the clerk pushed some buttons on the cash register, but it didn’t open, court papers said. Instead, he saw the clerk pull $200 from his pocket and then hand it to him.
After he left, the officer faxed a written statement, as well as a printout of the “winning” ticket, to lottery officials.
Later, the clerk showed up at a south Everett lottery office and handed over what he thought was a $20,000 ticket.
A lottery employee had him fill out the back of the ticket as well as a claim form.
The suspect then handed over his license to confirm his identity.
When the lottery worker entered the ticket number into the computer, there was a message in all capitals: “DO NOT PAY! CONTACT LOTTERY SECURITY!”
Everett police then arrested the suspect for investigation of attempted lottery fraud.
When confronted, the suspect initially told police that he found the ticket in the trash at the store.
Later, the clerk claimed to have bought the ticket from someone for $200, court papers said.
In 2010, state lottery officials decided to add undercover visits to retail outlets as part of their security program. In doing so, Washington adopted a practice followed in other states. The investigations began after a large-scale lottery jackpot scam in Ontario, Canada, in 2003.
So far, state workers have gone undercover to 836 of the roughly 3,700 Washington businesses that sell lottery tickets. More than 98 percent followed the law, but 13 retailers, including a total of three businesses in Everett, have employed people caught trying to dupe their customers, records show.
Lottery investigators typically use marked tickets with values ranging from $100 to $20,000.
People need to know there are safeguards for consumers, lottery officials said.
“It’s the integrity of the lottery that is most important,” state lottery spokesman Arlen Harris said. “You as a lottery player need to know that you are being dealt with honestly.”
Lottery officials say ticket buyers also can take steps to protect themselves.
They should always sign the back of the ticket because that establishes ownership.
They also can use “check-a-ticket” scanners that are supposed to be in all retail outlets and available to consumers, officials said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org.