‘Lucky’ lottery stores lose their machines

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—On Wednesday, Florida Lottery officials pulled their machines from three Pompano Beach convenience stores that are linked to one of the state’s most prolific winners.

No arrest has been made, though Lottery officials said “fraudulent activity may have occurred involving the sale of lottery tickets.” The three stores are Akel Market, Georgia Market, and Kwik Stop Food Store, 617 Hammondville Road. The Broward Sheriff’s Office supervised the removal of the equipment.

The three stores have sold tickets cashed by frequent winner Louis Tillman Johnson. The Pompano Beach man has cashed 26 of Akel Market’s 36 taxable winning tickets (worth $600 or more) sold since Jan. 1, 2012. Records also show Johnson cashed scratch-off and drawing games, including Play 4, and in the past 10 years has claimed 252 taxable wins worth $719,051. Lottery officials would not say whether the stores or a third party gave Johnson the tickets.

Deputy Lottery Secretary David Bishop said the state has been investigating the stores since August and confirmed the investigation involves Johnson. Bishop said that the case is isolated, and the general integrity of the Lottery is not at risk.

Johnson, 68, said two detectives and four Broward Sheriff’s deputies showed up at his 1,200-square-foot home Wednesday and that the investigators interviewed him for about two hours.

“They said, ‘Don’t talk to nobody,’ (because) they’re going to lock me up if I talk to anybody,” he said.

Johnson said he was shown a list of lottery winnings attributed to him, and he asked the investigators to look around his modest home and overgrown yard and tell him where they think the money went.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “All I can do is sit back and wait.”

Johnson said he’s been a victim of identity theft since 2008 and thinks someone must be cashing lottery tickets using his name. “I know that’s not me, but I can’t prove it,” he said.

Johnson said he earns a few dollars hauling scrap metal in an old pickup truck for a friend, has broken teeth that need fixing, and other health issues that a few jackpots would help remedy.

“If I had money, I’d go to the doctor for the (health) troubles that I got,” he said.

Lottery officials say they often conduct stings to see if clerks are properly paying winnings to players.

Florida has more than 13,000 lottery vendors, who receive 5 percent of ticket sales and bonuses for selling jackpot tickets. South Florida District Manager Tom Dolan said possible contract violations include selling to minors; evidence of drugs on premises, not being handicap-accessible; and not selling all the Florida Lottery’s products.

“This is more serious than that,” Dolan said of the Pompano Beach stores. “They’ll not be selling lottery tickets, at least for the foreseeable future.”

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