Store clerks' honesty put to test with winning lottery submissions

by: Richard Thompson Updated:

Many of us have dreamed about what we'd do if we won the lottery. 

However, what if you actually had a big winning ticket, and a store clerk checked and told you it was a loser, but then cashed it in himself? 

This kind of fraud does happen and KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Richard Thompson went undercover with state investigators as they put store clerks’ honesty to the test.

The first stop was a Shell Station in Parkland.

An undercover investigator with the Washington State Lottery asked the clerk to check the ticket secretly designed to show it as a $20,000 winner. 

It was obvious clerk Jason Frings was honest and thrilled for the man he thought had won $20,000. He excitedly told the undercover investigator, "Dude, forget your bag of chips and head to the lottery office. You’re one lucky son of gun man."

Frings said he never considered telling the man the ticket was a loser and cashing it in for himself. 

"Twenty-thousand dollars now for prison time? Nah, I'm good I want go to work I want to go home," said Frings.

During eight compliance checks that day, each clerk was honest and told the undercover investigator the ticket was a winner, but not every clerk in the past has done the right thing during these undercover checks.

KIRO 7 obtained surveillance video showing clerks at three different stores telling undercover agents that their winning tickets were losers. Those clerks were later arrested when they came to lottery offices to try and claim the prize money. 

A total of 10 clerks have been arrested during compliance checks that officials call critical for the lottery's future.  

"If people don't believe our games are fair and honest we are out of business. We are not going to sell lottery tickets," said Lottery Director of Security Len Brudvik.

In most cases, undercover officers are in and out of stores quickly -- during more than 1,000 stings -- more than 98 percent of the clerks were honest, and clerks KIRO 7 talked to didn’t mind the scrutiny.

"I mean it keeps people honest. It keeps people on their toes," said Dvaughn Masson, a clerk at a Tacoma area AM/PM.

While you need some luck to win the lottery, the clerks said all they have to do to stay out of trouble is be honest and avoid the temptation of a quick buck.

"I'm too pretty for jail," Masson jokingly told KIRO 7.

Lottery players can avoid the danger of running into a dishonest clerk by checking their tickets themselves at electronic readers. Even scratch tickets have a barcode on them that can be checked on the readers.

Lottery officials said players should also sign the back of the ticket because the person will be the only one who can legally cash in a winning ticket.