NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A criminal investigation has been launched against an alleged Lotto ticket scammer.
The Queens district attorney said Friday someone tried to cheat a $14 million lottery winner out of his prize money.
CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan was there when the rightful owner was rewarded.
Milledge McCassell is a shy, humble man who worked tirelessly as a New York City subway signalman until retiring on a modest pension. Now his life has unexpectedly changed.
“I’m thrilled about the whole affair. Winning the Lotto is a great thing,” McCassell said.
But it didn’t start out as a great thing.
In August, McCassell bought four New York Lottery chances with a $2 ticket. The next day he went to the Dynasty Deli and Grocery on Jamaica Avenue in Queens to scan his numbers, under the newly installed computer self-checking system.
McCassell was thrilled to discover he’d hit the jackpot and excitedly handed his unsigned ticket to a clerk. But when he asked for it back, the clerk couldn’t find it.
McCassell didn’t give in.
“He called the Lottery. The Lottery’s investigative team immediately called the state police. Within hours we had turned off the retailer, withdrawn all his instant ticket inventory, removed all his equipment, and began our investigation,” New York Lottery director Gordon Medenica said.
McLogan went into the deli and confronted the owners.
McLogan: “We are looking for the clerk who is being investigated by the Queens district attorney.”
Owner: “We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t know what you are talking about.”
The Lottery said the whole episode is a lesson learned: Sign the back of your ticket immediately. Like a check, it can’t be cashed by anyone but you. New scanners and safeguards embedded into computers now provide security for players, like McCassell.
When asked if his heart was pounding, McCassell replied, “Yes, I’m thrilled.”
The Queens district attorney would not say whether the investigation centers solely on the clerk, who could be charged with grand larceny. Rather than getting $14 million, the clerk could get 1-3 years instead.
In 2009 the New York Lottery had 200 consumer complaints. Nine of those were said to be founded and resulted in license suspensions.
Two retailers were arrested for cheating customers.