When California State Lottery agents suspected luck was not behind the unusually high scratcher lottery ticket redemption activity at a liquor store in Santa Ana, they went to work to determine what was really taking place. As a result of their investigation, a store clerk was arrested and now faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted.
Francis Bou Karam, 34, of Newport Beach, is accused of illegally redeeming winning scratcher lottery tickets and knowingly reselling losing tickets to unsuspecting customers. According to an Orange County District Attorney press release, as a clerk at Craig Liquor, Karam scratched off a small portion of lottery ticket scratchers, without purchasing them, to determine if they were winning tickets. This type of fraud is known as “pinning.”
Karam is accused of redeeming the winning tickets for cash from California State Lottery (CSL) and reselling the losing tickets back to customers. Karam is accused of redeeming $50,000 in cash from winning lottery tickets and defrauding the CSL and unsuspecting customers of $100,000, which represents the combined retail value of the winning and losing lottery ticket scratchers.
"Unsuspecting customers hoping to purchase a winning scratcher ticket, never had a chance," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. CSLEA represents CSL agents. "Lottery agents work to protect the integrity of the California State Lottery and to ensure those who buy tickets are getting a fair shot at winning something."
Karam is charged with one felony count of grand theft, one felony count of computer access fraud, and 23 felony counts of forgery with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime over $100,000 and loss over $65,000.
The illegal activity allegedly took place between Jan. 1, 2013 and Nov. 13, 2014. Karam was arrested November 25, 2014 and released on bond November 26, 2014. His next court date is set for January 14, 2015.