Clerk charged with stealing lottery tickets

BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD (CNN) - A Maryland woman is accused of trying to scam lottery ticket winners out of their money and keeping it for herself.

Melissa Stone, 39, was arrested under what police described as a lottery scam. Stone, who owns a liquor store in Baltimore, is accused of lying to a winning scratch-off ticket holder. She allegedly told the customer the ticket was a loser so she could take the winnings.

"This is outrageous. They got a winner, and she's taking the winner for herself and cashing the ticket," said customer Eric Wheeler. "Unbelievable. She should be put in jail."

To make sure clerks operating the lottery machine are honest, lottery officials began conducting routine compliance checks last year.

Since February, they have gone undercover 663 times and uncovered 12 violations. Stone's case is the biggest.

Officials say the case blew wide open when an undercover investigator brought a $10,000 winning ticket to the store and tried to cash it in. They say Stone told the investigator it was not a winner, and instead she brought the ticket to lottery headquarters and tried to cash it in herself.

At that point, lottery officials approached Baltimore County Police detectives, who arrested Stone and charged her with grand theft.

"It's fraud. She should be locked up for stealing money," said Michael Kelly. "I would be locked up for it. I think she should be locked up for it and sent to jail."

Lottery officials say it is impossible to tell how many customers might have fallen victim to the scam since smaller winning tickets - those less than $600 - can be paid out by the clerk at the store.

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