PALMDALE – A Palmdale gas station employee who mistakenly paid an undercover California Lottery investigator $75 for what should have been a $75,000 winning ticket misunderstood procedures but did not commit fraud, Lottery officials said Thursday.
State officials also hailed the work of the Chevron station manager who took steps to track down the person who had been underpaid – not realizing the man was an undercover investigator for the California Lottery, or that the winning ticket was actually fake.
The strange story began March 25 when the investigator walked into the station on North Sierra Highway with the ticket, and was paid $75 instead of $75,000 that the ticket should have been worth.
After realizing the mistake, station manager Shamsun Islam contacted a television station and provided surveillance photos and video of the man in hopes of tracking him down to pay him the full amount.
Islam, however, was unaware the man was actually an undercover investigator with the California Lottery, and she unintentionally blew his cover by going public with the search.
Lottery officials, concerned that the public would be searching for a lottery winner who didn’t really exist, came forward and confirmed the man was an undercover investigator, saying his visit to the shop with the “winning” ticket was part of a random compliance check.
“While there were some inconsistencies regarding the proper procedures in handling the lottery ticket, the Lottery is satisfied that the incident was a result of the clerk’s misunderstanding of those procedures,” according to the Lottery. “Further training of the retail staff will take place.”
Lottery officials also thanked Islam “for her resolve in attempting to find the ‘winner’ along with her continued effort to maintain the integrity involved in selling Lottery products.”
Lottery officials offered a series of tips for the public to protect against errors when trying to redeem tickets:
- Always ask for a “validation receipt” when having a ticket checked for possible winnings.
- Always sign the back of the ticket in ink.
- Ensure that Scratchers tickets do not have any marks, alterations or scratches on them.
- Ensure Scratchers tickets are freshly torn off the roll when they are purchased.
[Information via City News Service.]