Winning lottery scratch cards are hard enough to come by, but the odds are even longer when the store clerk is working against you. But that’s what allegedly happened in one Winn-Dixie liquor store in Fort Myers, Florida recently.
When a customer at the store approached Crystelle Yvette Baton with a $600 winning ticket, he received just a $5 payoff. The cashier allegedly scanned the ticket and, realizing its value, promptly pocketed it, telling the man that his “prize” was a measly five bucks, which she craftily pulled from her own purse.
But unfortunately for Baton, the “customer” was in fact an undercover agent of the Florida Lottery Commission’s security division doing a spot check, and last week she was charged with larceny grand theft.
Tip of the Iceberg?
Local news station WBHH NBC2 immediately descended on the scene of the crime to interview stunned customers.
Anyone that is working in a customer service job, you think that they are doing what is in your best interest. I would be very upset if someone took that from me,” said one.
Meanwhile, a far worldlier visitor to the NBC2 website explained wearily how he had seen it all before, while offering some useful advice for less experienced scratch card enthusiasts.
“This is much more common than you would think,” the poster asserted. “I put my name on the back always, and always notice when the cashier checks the back before she determines whether it won something or not. A favorite trick, pretend to throw ticket away after telling someone they did not win anything, and then when they leave, pull it out of the trash and collect.”
Could it be, then, that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the murky world of Florida convenience store lottery fraud?
Top Tip: Use the Scanners
Earlier this month, the husband of one store owner in Tallahassee was hauled before a judge to plead guilty to printing thousands of forged winning tickets which he cashed in for over $250,000. Hutendra Bahadur Shahi, 38, was charged with fraud, grand theft, and tampering with evidence.
So now you know why you never win any money on those convenience store scratch cards. But, seriously, if you’re really concerned you’re being bilked out of a small fortune by unscrupulous customer service operatives, remember you can check whether you have a winning ticket, and exactly how much it’s worth, by passing it through the in-store electronic checkers, sparing the clerks the temptation in the first place.
Baton, who has been fired, posted a $5,000 bond and has a trial set for February 26.