Gas station manager inadvertantly blows California lottery investigator’s cover

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Palmdale, CA (PIX11/KTLA) — A Palmdale gas station manager released surveillance video of a purported lottery winner to try and track down the man he thought he owed tens of thousands of dollars.

Unknown to the Chevron manager, however, the man who his clerk gave just $75 in exchange for a ‘winning ticket’ that should have been worth $75,000, was actually an undercover inspector with a fake scratcher, a California lottery official admitted Monday.

A still from surveillance video taken at a gas station in Palmdale shows a man with a $75,000 ticket on March 25, 2015. He was actually a state inspector, according to a lottery spokesman.

A still from surveillance video taken at a gas station in Palmdale shows a man with a $75,000 ticket on March 25, 2015. He was actually a state inspector, according to a lottery spokesman.

Thanks to the hard work of the Chevron station owner who circulated the footage, various Los Angeles-area news outlets ran the story, reporting that the gas station was attempting to find the $75,000 “winner.”

With the undercover inspector’s image splashed across the evening news, lottery officials were forced to admit what had happened, but still haven’t completely cleared the gas station.

“Since the store held onto the ticket, it appears the ticket was mishandled,” Lopez said in a brief statement to KTLA. “We are currently investigating this case.”

No one has tried to cash the fake ticket left with the clerk, but if evidence of fraud is uncovered Chevron station manager Shamsun Islam could lose the gas station.

The California State Lottery Act requires year-round compliance checks “to protect our business, our players, and yes, our retailers,” Lopez said. Compliance is 98 percent, meaning almost all retailers “act with integrity and honesty,” Lopez said.

Islam said the clerk realized his mistake after the apparent ticket-holder left.

“He feels so bad,” Islam said of the clerk.

The man had turned in a ticket for the top prize in the Wild West Poker Scratchers game. Players have a one in 1,196,120 chance of winning the $75,000 prize, according to the lottery’s website for the game.

“I talk to him. I show him the video, said Shamsun Islam. “He said ‘OK this is a true mistake.'”

The clerk immediately called Islam, who in turn called her boss, who instructed her to call California Lottery officials. Islam said lottery officials said someone would come by to pick up the ticket.

After several weeks, when no one appeared, she reached out to news media to try to find the man she believed was owed $75,000.

“I tried my best,” Islam said.

No determination has been made as to the intent of the gas station clerk or manager, Lopez said. He told the Los Angeles Times that officials were trying to determine if authorities were ever notified about the ticket, and if any fraud was committed.

Until Shamsun went public with the surveillance video, officials had been waiting to see if anyone would try to file a claim on the $75,000, the Times reported.

Islam, meanwhile, urged lottery players to always fill out the fields for name and contact information on their tickets.