The California Lottery and South Bay law enforcement have arrested nine retailers for stealing winning lottery tickets from winners.
Each of the crimes amounts to grand theft. All the suspects were accused of cheating Lottery customers.
“While these crimes involve only a small number of our more than 20,000 authorized retailers, we demand that all our retailers be fair and honest,” California Lottery director Joan Borucki said. “The Lottery will not tolerate those who deceive our players and compromise the integrity of Lottery games.”
In the Santa Clara County operation, undercover investigators posing as customers handed clerks decoy winning tickets and asked if they had won.
In some instances, the clerks told the investigators that their ticket was not a winner.
The suspects then went on to file a claim with the Lottery as if the winning tickets were theirs.
Suspects face felony charges and punishment including possible fines and incarceration in state prison.
Lottery officials said the organization has one of the largest forces of sworn peace officers of any Lottery in the nation.
More than 95 cents of every Lottery dollar is returned to the community in the form of contributions to education, prizes and retail commissions, according to officials.
Since its inception in 1985, the Lottery has contributed nearly $21 billion to California schools out of total sales of more than $56 billion.