Yet Another Warning ...
TX - Grand Prairie Store Clerk Steals Players Winnings
News Stories As They Appeared ...
1) WFAA TV - Channel 8 TV - Dallas
2) Austin American-Statesman
3) Houston Chronicle
Posted: Oct 21, 2009
Revised: Nov 2, 2009 - 11:30 PM
(Added Houston Chronicle Story)
Oct 28, 2009 - 11:30 PM
(Added Austin American Statesman story)
Watch the - See how many store clerks
Before you read the Nov 2, 2009 Houston Chronicle below, read my comments
For those of you who buy Quick Picks, how many winning tickets do you think you've been
You only hear about the big claims. You don't hear about the MILLIONS of dollars stolen
I had planned to tell you about the hell other players have gone through to collect their winnings
In the meantime, ALL of you should watch the - Another investigation
Clerk who claimed man's jackpot called winner
AUSTIN Willis Willis, cheated out of a million-dollar jackpot, went to the Texas Lottery Commission Monday to see if there was a way to get his money.
Instead, his lawyers said, commission attorneys told the 67-year-old Grand Prairie man that they consider the jackpot's winner to be a store clerk who was charged with claiming a lottery prize by fraud after he allegedly snagged Willis' ticket and collected the winnings.
The Lottery Commission for the first time today informed Mr. Willis that they consider the lottery agent who stole his ticket to be the winner of the lottery because the clerk who stole the ticket the agent of the lottery signed the back of it, said Willis' lawyer Sean E. Breen.
Let that sink in, he added.
Breen said the commission's general counsel, Kim Kiplin, and two other lawyers refused to answer any of their questions.
I came here with hopes, but the hopes have been dashed now, Willis said. I didn't think that I would just be told that, you know, Too bad, you lose even though you won.'
Commission spokesman Bobby Heith declined to comment.
It's the policy of this agency not to discuss any pending litigation, Heith said.
Ticket bearer is winner
Austin Police Cpl. Scott Perry said that is why officials advise winners to be sure to sign the backs of their tickets. The Austin Police Department is one of the agencies that worked on the case.
Whoever is bearing the ticket is who gets the prize, Perry said. The bearer of the ticket is the owner of the ticket, and they only pay the winning prize once. They were presented a ticket they had no idea was fraudulent, and they followed through with their end of the deal.
That does not mean Willis is entirely out of luck, however.
Officials said $365,000 of the jackpot has been recovered from U.S. banks, out of a total of $750,006 that had been paid to clerk Pankaj Joshi after taxes.
Looking for the clerk
We hope to return the stolen funds to Mr. Willis, Robertson said. Mr. Willis is the rightful owner of the funds that we seized from Mr. Joshi's accounts.
The case arose after Willis bought the winning Mega Millions ticket May 29 in Grand Prairie, according to the Austin Police Department. Willis asked a clerk to check it and two other tickets on May 31. He was told he had won $2.
On June 25, the clerk identified as Joshi presented the winning ticket at the commission in Austin, which validated it and transferred the $750,006 to his bank account.
After Joshi's co-workers became suspicious of his apparent lottery win and called the Lottery Commission, the agency investigated and presented its findings to the district attorney's office. Joshi was indicted on a charge of claiming a lottery prize by fraud, a second-degree felony.
If they're big enough to buy a lottery ticket, Nettles said, They're big enough to check their own ticket.
("Pending Claims/Disputed Claims" - What Texas lottery players
Man who says he was scammed wants lottery money
By Steven Kreytak
Willis has medical bills past due, a toothache he can't afford to fix and the hope if not the money to help his daughters with their college tuition.
The 67-year-old Grand Prairie maintenance man, who authorities say had his lottery winnings stolen by the store clerk he asked to check his ticket in May, said in an interview Tuesday that the $1 million prize would let him climb out of an economic hole. After doing that, Willis said, he might buy some new golf clubs.
"I am not a wealthy man," he said. "I am a working man, live paycheck to paycheck."
Now, as authorities search for Pankaj Joshi, who was indicted in Travis County this month on a charge of claiming a lottery prize by fraud, Willis' lawyers are demanding that the Texas Lottery Commission pay his winnings.
"It is undisputed that Mr. Willis won fair and square a million dollars playing Texas Lottery," said Willis' Austin lawyer, Sean Breen. "The only issue right now is when is the lottery going to pay the money that they owe him."
Texas Lottery Commission spokesman Bobby Heith said Willis' demands are being reviewed and declined to comment further.
Willis worked as an apartment complex maintenance man until he was hospitalized for high blood pressure in November. He had to leave his job and move in with a grown daughter, one of his six children.
Since then, Willis has worked various maintenance jobs through a staffing agency.
He said that for several years he had cashed his paycheck at the Lucky Food Store on Great Southwest Parkway in Grand Prairie, a Dallas suburb, and bought up to $20 in lottery tickets. He then returned to the store on Sundays to check whether any of his tickets were winners before heading across the street to Mary's Outpost, a bar where he regularly watched NASCAR.
"Everyone in there was very friendly, very respectable," he said of the store.
On May 29, according to a police affidavit, Willis cashed a $237.80 check and bought $20 in lottery tickets. Two days later he returned just before 4 p.m. to have his tickets checked, the affidavit said.
Willis said that the clerk at the store stands behind a large Plexiglas wall and that the lottery machine is out of sight of customers. He said he handed his ticket to the clerk, a friendly man whom he did not know by name, and was told that he had won $2. He took the $2 and left.
"You can't see the machine, nor can you hear it," he said.
Authorities say that it was Joshi who was working that day and that he redeemed the winning ticket, which they believe was purchased by Willis, at lottery headquarters in Austin on June 25. After withholding taxes, lottery officials wired $750,000 to a Washington Mutual account provided by Joshi.
A tip from Joshi's co-workers, who said they never saw him play the lottery, triggered the investigation, police said.
Police have seized $365,000 of what they believe are lottery proceeds from several bank accounts opened by Joshi. The rest, Austin police Detective Billy Petty said, was probably wired out of the country. Petty said he thinks that Joshi, 25, who had worked at the store for about five years while attending the University of Texas at Arlington, has returned to his native Nepal.
Breen, one of Willis' lawyers, said that lottery officials erred in giving the money to Joshi.
"Mr. Willis did absolutely nothing wrong," Breen said. "When an agent of the lottery shows up in Austin a store clerk to reveal a million-dollar ticket, that's a red flag the size of Texas that something's rotten."
The TLC should pay this player - it's their fault that the clerk was ever in a position to steal the players ticket in the first place. They have been warned repeatedly - for years - about this awful flaw in their business - with the last warning from me at the comment hearing in May 2009. But they will TRY to stall this case for years. The winner needs to have a Property Rights Hearing so he can collect his money ASAP. Judges frown on the actions of the TLC - I know - I was part of a hearing where we successfully obtained a court order forcing the TLC to fund the players prize money.
("Pending Claims/Disputed Claims" - What Texas lottery players
(Comments by Additional comments below stories)
Watch Video (10/21/09),
Grand Prairie clerk accused in $1 million lottery fraud
07:24 AM CDT on Wednesday, October 21, 2009
By DARLA MILES / WFAA-TV
GRAND PRAIRIE State authorities are looking for a Grand Prairie convenience store clerk who allegedly stole a $1 million lottery ticket from a customer.
Pankaj Joshi is accused of lying to the 67-year-old customer who presented the ticket, telling him that he only won $2. Then, Joshi allegedly kept the million dollar ticket for himself and cashed it in at lottery headquarters in Austin.
Investigators believe Joshi who had worked at the Lucky Food Store at 902 South Great Southwest Parkway for about five years may have fled the U.S. to return to his home country of Nepal.
Co-workers said Joshi never played the lottery; that's why they got suspicious when he suddenly quit and moved out of the country.
The man who presented the winning ticket to Joshi allegedly plays the same numbers all the time. According to an indictment from Travis County, the customer had a Megaplier million dollar ticket, but the clerk incorrectly told the customer he had won only $2 and sent him on his way. ("Incorrectly?" Store clerks do this every day but the state and the TLC refuse to forbid clerks from checking players tickets - I've been working on this issue for years to no avail!)
Joshi took the cash option and transferred $750,000 to several different bank accounts. He then told his co-workers he had to move back to Nepal to help a cousin run a perfume store.
Fellow employees, however, sensed that something was wrong and reported Joshi to the lottery commission.
Lottery officials have managed to recover more than $200,000 of the ill-gotten gains from several of Joshi's bank accounts.
U.S. Marshals are working with law enforcement officials abroad to try and locate Joshi.
It has not been determined whether the 67-year-old who originally had the winning ticket will ever receive the $1 million prize.
Watch Video WFAA TV (10/21/09),
A Very Important Message To Lottery Players
I cannot begin to tell you how many times - over many years - I have requested that the Texas Lottery forbid clerks from checking players lottery tickets.
Not only have I gone to the Texas Lottery, but I have gone to the Sunset Commission, the State Auditors Office and to quite a few Texas Legislators about this very issue - all requests fell upon deaf ears.
I have asked for a law to be written on this very issue - to no avail.
As early as 1999, I posted a list of things that the Texas Lottery needed to either do, or stop doing to either be fair to players or to protect players. (The link in the sentence above shows you ONLY one place this can be found on my website)
I have posted so many warnings to players about checking their own tickets - do not under any circumstances let someone else or ANY computer check your tickets. Check them yourself.
I have spent countless hours advising players NOT to use those web sites that gives players the so-called programs allowing you to "CHECK YOUR NUMBERS" via a database on the internet. This is because ONE incorrect number typed in by a "human" can cause players to throw away a winning ticket. Humans make mistakes even those who work at the lottery.
And please notice that NONE (that I've seen) of these "Check Your Numbers" features warn players by disclaimers that they are not responsible for any errors - they don't expect players to ever dream there could be a mistake. And they don't want to alert you to that possibility either. They don't want to DECREASE their unclaimed prize funds.
And don't think for one minute that the lotteries data bases are error free - because, clearly, they are NOT. And this is where you find these CHECK YOUR NUMBERS programs.
ONE incorrect number typed in by the player can result in a player throwing away a winning ticket. Do you have any idea how easy it is to make a typo?
Don't trust clerks to check your tickets either. They steal ... If you only knew how many people they see every day and the clerks know that the players have no idea what numbers were drawn. It is soooo easy for them to lie not to mention - tempting. Many clerks remain store clerk because of the "fringe benefits" of working there!
And finally, if clerks stealing is not bad enough, lottery terminals err in scanning tickets too. I have tickets and receipts that proves lottery terminals err. Sometimes, the lottery has admitted it but most of the time, they deny it. Those scanners are no different than the scanners you find in grocery stores. How many times have you seen a grocery store clerk have to type in a bar code in order to charge you for the product you are buying? Well, in the case of the lottery terminals that err, UNFORTUNATELY, the terminals say "NOT A WINNER" when the scanner errs. Clerks respond and report to you whatever message they get.
To make my point VERY clear - did you know that when the winner of a HUGE Mega Millions jackpot went to claim his prize in Ohio, when the Ohio Lottery scanned his ticket, the terminal said "NOT A WINNER." He knew better and the lottery said it was just a "hick-up in the computer system" - well, I don't believe that.
Personally, I believe it was suppose to say that as I believe the validation code was changed in HOPES that whoever held that ticket was a player who didn't check his own tickets but depended on the clerks or terminals to check the tickets for him. I often wonder IF this is why we have so many unclaimed JACKPOT winning tickets that go unclaimed. Of course, no one could ever PROVE this.
In closing, let me say, when it comes to MONEY, there is only one person you can trust - and that is yourself.
Check your own tickets.
(All About the Lotteries)