The Pennsylvania Lottery does not do enough to analyze data on its customers’ winning patterns, the state auditor general, Timothy DeFoor, said Monday.
DeFoor is concerned that this lack of oversight could be letting frequent winners get away with committing widescale fraud.
“We found the lottery has security measures designed to prevent illegal or fraudulent activities from retailers selling lottery products, but not from anyone else who plays the lottery,” DeFoor’s said in statement.
“This has nothing to do with lottery products. They are completely secure. We are talking about whether or not the person claiming the winning prize is doing something they shouldn’t,” he added.
Frequent winners, who appear to defy the odds, should be a red flag to lottery operators because they could be involved in “discounting” or “ten-percenting” schemes.
In Pennsylvania and many other states money can be deducted from lottery jackpots over a certain threshold (usually $600) if the winner is found to owe state or federal taxes or child support.
This has created a clandestine market in ticket-cashing businesses which will buy winning lottery tickets, typically for ten percent less than their face value.
Last August in Massachusetts, a father and his two sons were charged with numerous counts of fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion in what prosecutors have described as the biggest discounting operation uncovered in the US so far.
Over eight years, Ali Jaafar and his sons, Mohamed and Yousef, all of Waterford, Mass., cashed in 13,000 winning Massachusetts Lottery tickets, mostly scratch-offs, for almost $21 million.
In Pennsylvania, the Auditor General’s Office examined 17 winners with over 50 wins over $600 from July 2017 through March 2020. In total, these players claimed almost $2.7 million, according to DeFoor.
He noted that one of the winners was a lottery retailer who had filed 42 winning claims during that period. The retailer’s spouse filed 88.
Currently, lottery employees and their immediate family are prohibited from playing lottery games. DeFoor recommended this should apply to retailers too. He also said that lottery officials should be given greater powers to investigate winners.
The Pennsylvania Lottery said in a statement Monday that it agreed with many of DeFoor’s findings. But it “strongly disagree[s] with the performance audit’s assertion that frequent wins by Lottery players are an indication of illegal activity on the part of the players.”
“From our perspective, this unfounded assertion relies upon the same flawed methodology that others have relied on to erroneously raise questions about the perceived statistical improbability of certain lottery players’ wins,” it added.
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