Apr 27, 2012 12:42 AM by Carolyn Carver
Imagine winning the lottery ,but never knowing because the store clerk pocketed the ticket for themselves.
In a News 5 exclusive investigation, Colorado lottery investigators took us along on one of their compliance check stings to catch the clerks in the act.
For three days from store to store in Pueblo and Colorado Springs highly trained former law enforcement agents went undercover with a winning lottery ticket to make sure lottery ticket sellers are playing by the rules.
The very first store we hit, failed.
"It's not coming up as a winner," the store clerk told the undercover agent.
But we knew it was a winner, and through their smart phones, the lottery investigators knew the clerk ran the ticket twice to ensure it was a winner.
"They just acted like they were all losers and that I didn't win anything," the undercover agent told us as she left the store. "Ya, they're sneaky."
But after that first store failed, we were in for a surprise.
Most of the clerks complied, helped the undercover agent understand the rules and even congratulated them.
Investigator Dale Stinson says that's a good thing, "we want everybody in the state of Colorado to feel like there's integrity in the game and that they can be assured everything's going to work out fine, that they're going to get their winning ticket and get the money that's due to them that's the bottom line."
Only two more clerks failed during this investigation.
But stealing lottery tickets is only a minor theft, it's when the clerk goes to the lottery office to claim the winning ticket where it becomes a felony.
"Basically we're looking at two overt acts, there's the overt act of taking the ticket at the store but we wait for the second overt act which happens when they try to cash the ticket," says Stinson.
Then he says that can be felony fraud, felony theft and felony criminal attempt.
In the three day investigation of Pueblo and Colorado Springs only three clerks failed the test out of 40. As of February 2012 the lottery says, of the 582 retailers checked in Colorado, 22 clerks were charged with felonies.
The lottery in Colorado is a nearly half a billion dollar business, selling nearly $520 million worth of lottery tickets last year alone, giving away more than $328 million in winnings.
Where does all that lottery money go?
They say every dollar goes directly back to the community.
$113 million dollars to the Great Outdoors organization, Conservative Trust Fund and Colorado state parks and wildlife.
Colorado Springs parks manager, Kurt Schroeder says many city projects might not exist without the help of your lottery dollars.
"They're not just giving their money away if they don't win, unfortunately I don't win, but part of that dollar comes right back to us to keep the parks up and make them a better place to be," he says.
So what do you need to know to protect yourself when you play the lottery?