Q13 FOX News reporter
9:26 PM EDT, October 4, 2012
Some store clerks in this state have been accused of keeping winning lottery tickets for themselves, as customers walk away thinking they lost.
So state lottery officials have sent undercover agents out to stores all over the Northwest with winning lottery tickets to see if clerks take the bait.
An undercover agent called “Tom” goes into one store for a bag of chips to check his lottery ticket. It turned out, of course, that his ticket is a big winner.
“She (the clerk) called me back up there and said I'm going to be very excited by how much I won,” Tom said.
The clerk, Laura Garguile, had passed the test.
“I'm like, ‘Oh my God, you have just won $20,000’ and he's like, ‘What’? He couldn't believe it.”
Tom said he puts clerks to the test because “they can tell us the ticket’s not a winner and keep it for themselves; they could tell us the ticket’s less then it's actually worth.”
That didn’t happen at Bremerton’s Midtown Market; it passed with flying colors.
“It’s not worth it, you know? We've been in business for 55 years and this is our livelihood,” said Nick Garguile.
But there are some who apparently do. Everett police recently charged a clerk who they say tried to cash a $20,000 ticket he took from undercover agents.
The integrity is what we're about,” said Len Brudvik, director of security for Washington’s Lottery, “so the protection of it is crucial.”
The security director started the undercover operation two years ago to make sure customers aren’t being cheated.
“Initially we were about 8 percent non-compliant, which scared the heck out of me,” Brudvik said. “Over time, now it's down to about less than 1 ½ percent.”
Still, they want to catch any clerks who may also be crooks.
Most are honest. But if you play the lottery, there are ways to protect yourself. Every store has a ‘check it machine’ that will tell you if you've won. And if you sign the back of the ticket, no one else can cash it.