9 Investigates: Lottery winners losing money to untruthful store clerks

by: Blair Miller Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

North Carolina’s lottery now sells more than 2 million tickets a day.

But a 9 investigation uncovered some customers losing out on their winning after store clerk ripped them off.

It sounds simple: you buy a lottery ticket and if you win, you take it to the cashier. They scan it to confirm and then you collect your winnings.

Hidden camera video from lottery officials show some clerks taking winning tickets and telling customers who bought them the tickets aren’t winners.

Investigators said the clerks then pocket the winning tickets for themselves.

Lottery officials started conducting undercover stings to tackle this issue four years ago after seeing similar problems in other states.

Since then, they have conducted undercover stings at convenience stores across the state.

Eleven clerks have been arrested and others caught taking winning tickets, but never actually claiming the money.

Robert Denton with the lottery said their most recent undercover operation in March netted six clerks breaking the law.

“If it’s happening at all, it’s happening too much,” Denton said.

Some of the store clerks are very bold in what they are doing.

“In one case, the person arrested sort of knocked it off to the side and then handed the tickets back and hoped that the player didn’t pay attention,” Denton said.

The lottery gave Channel 9 video as undercover officers went into stores at the Xpress Shop on Sunset Road.

Officers walked in with three tickets, one of them was $1,000 winner.

“I would like to check these tickets,” the undercover officer told the clerk.

The clerk spent more than a minute checking, but then told undercover officers none of the tickets was a winner.

Not only did the clerk say it wasn’t a winning ticket, but officers said he exchanged the winning ticket with a losing one behind the counter and gave it back to the undercover officer.

The clerk, Dipak Rajpuria, was arrested and pleaded guilty to obtaining property under false pretenses.

He was also banned from ever selling tickets again.

Channel 9 anchor Blair Miller tracked down Rajpuria at his home in Ballantyne.

He told Miller was a one-time mistake.

“It’s my fault. OK, it’s my fault,” Rajpuria said.

“Have you ever done that any other time?” Miller asked.

“No sir,” Rajpuria said.

“Because that ticket was worth $1,000,” Blair said.

“Yeah, it is my fault sir. I told you, and I make mistake and I get the punishment too,” Rajpuria said.

Because of cases like this the lottery is now installing machines, that scan the ticket and determines if it’s a winner, in 60 percent of convenience stores statewide that sell lottery tickets.

It essentially removes the clerk form checking any tickets, winners or not.

“Do you think this is the answer to cutting down some of the fraud you’ve seen?” Miller asked.

“This is one of the answers,” Denton said.

The N.C. Education Lottery has offered tips to avoid fraud. Click here to view the tips.