Store clerks caught cheating lottery customers

Posted at 10:11 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 23:43:01-05

Most convenience store clerks in Wisconsin are honest people, but the I-Team found a handful of clerks trying to cheat customers out of their lottery winnings.

In order to protect the integrity of the game, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and the Department of Justice team up to conduct compliance checks in retail stores throughout the state.

The sting operation involves sending in an undercover agent with a winning “bait” ticket. The agent will then present the ticket to the clerk and ask whether it’s a winner.

If a store clerk tells the customer to claim the prize at the lottery office and returns the ticket to them, they pass.

If a store clerk is caught telling the “customer” the ticket is a loser, agents wait to see whether the clerk shows up at the lottery office to claim the prize that doesn’t belong to them.

Large lottery winnings must be claimed at lottery headquarters and can’t be paid out in-store.

The I-Team documented 7 incidents between 2013 and 2016 where store clerks were caught trying to rip off either an undercover agent or actual customer.

“The lottery is based on public trust with our players, so we routinely do compliance checks,” Stephanie Marquis with the Wisconsin Lottery said. “I think it’s important people know we are out there.”

Store clerks Tyna Dull and Travis Ferguson were both caught in undercover sting operations telling the agent their $5,000 winning ticket was not a winner. Both were questioned by investigators when they showed up to claim the prize.

Dull and Ferguson were both found guilty and a judge ordered them to pay a fine.

In an interrogation video obtained by the I-Team, Dull told investigators she had bought the winning ticket from a store in Madison, but could not recall which store she got the ticket at.

Investigators let her lie for more than half an hour before they confronted her and told her they knew how she got the winning ticket.

The agent asked, “Wouldn’t it be a more accurate statement that you knew the ticket was a winner?”

“Yep,” Dull admitted.

In Eau Claire, three people were charged with stealing an elderly customer’s $10,000 winning ticket in 2013.

Investigators say instead of mailing the ticket to the lottery office, clerk Kimberly Strand gave it to her boyfriend, who then offered his brother $500 to cash the ticket.

All three were found guilty.

We asked the Wisconsin Lottery whether cases like this tarnishes the game’s reputation.

“That’s why we do compliance checks,” Marquis said. “Trust is everything.”

Most of the felony charges filed against store clerks were later downgraded to misdemeanors, according to court records obtained by TODAY’S TMJ4.

However, the Wisconsin Lottery said all the store clerks busted lose their jobs in addition to paying hefty fines.

To protect your winnings, the Wisconsin Lottery encourages you do the following:
-Sign the back of the lottery ticket. Once you sign it, only you can claim the winnings!
-If you are unsure whether a store clerk is being honest about whether your ticket is a winner or loser, you have the right to ask for the ticket back.
-Stores have automated ticket machines on-site so you can check whether you’re a winner without having to wait for a clerk.

If you have any questions concerning the lottery or would like to report a problem, call 608-261-4916.