Last fall, a gang of crooks using crowbars, hammers, a drill and propane tank to break into Dildar Kumar’s convenience store in Queens, New York, in the deep of night.
Sales of scratch-off lottery tickets—also variously known as scatchies, scratchers and scratch-its—have become a big money pot for states.
In some cases, the perps are disgruntled store clerks pocketing tickets during their shifts.
One New York Police Department detective who was recently on the trail of a scratch-off gang in Brooklyn, New York, got a tip on their hideout. JMD Convenience Store in Queens, where the supply of scratch off tickets was recently cleaned out by cat burglars.
Lottery commissions in New York, California, Connecticut and other states say they know about the theft problem and have it all under control.
Some sellers are locking their tickets in plastic containers, but plastic isn't much of a defense against thieves with blow torches. He says he used to bank $10,000 a week in gross sales from his store, but business is down 70 percent since the machine was yanked.
At the Flying K gas station in Toledo, Washington, the scratch-off thefts were an inside job.


During a sentencing hearing this month, Bowen, a first-time offender, pleaded for mercy. But Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey slapped her with a four-year sentence.
With the rise in thefts, Connecticut lottery officials are now requiring sellers to deactivate their entire scratch-off ticket inventory at the close of every business—deactivation prevents a winning ticket from being cashed. Iowa’s CEO Rich says crooks should stick to perennial favorites like booze and smokes. Police say that when they finally cornered the crew behind the string of Queens thefts, four of the five men tried to climb trees to escape, before ultimately surrendering. After smashing through the roof and dropping into the store, they plucked $2,000 from his ATM machine and snatched his entire stockpile of cigarette cartons. Lotto tickets are also popular with retailers, who get a cut of every sale and use the tickets to drive foot traffic and sales of everything from milk to gum to cigarettes. In others, it’s robbers who burst into stores to empty the till and then grab anything else they see of value, including the strips of scratch-off tickets sitting right behind the register. They say that if retailers report the thefts promptly, they can put an immediate block on the stolen tickets that prevents them from being redeemed. He says New York State Gaming officials told him that the cat burglars were able to cash in $22,000 in scratch-off winnings, and as a penalty, he says they confiscated the machine in his store that dispensed Powerball lottery tickets.


Clerk Katrina Bowen built a habit of pilfering scratch-off tickets (as well as the cash from beer sales).
States like California and New York take in almost $5 billion a year from lottery sales—and typically more than half of that comes from scratch-off tickets. That’s important because in some states, unscanned tickets are effectively dead paper.
The tickets come in books of $300 and in various denominations, from a buck all the way up to $50 in Texas, where you can scratch your way to a $7.5 million jackpot. The apartment was littered with takeout Chinese containers and “reams and reams” of lottery tickets.
A typical small store in New York can sell $6,000 in scratch-off tickets a week, and can keep 6% of that as a commission. He says the group of 10 men had sold off some of the unused tickets and given some to their relatives.



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