A mystery that appeared to involve an unfortunate lottery winner who walked away from a Southern California gas station with just $75 after handing over a $75,000 scratcher took a turn this week.
The man caught on store surveillance camera video that was circulated during the weekend was really an undercover lottery agent with a decoy ticket. The man handed over the card at about 4:15 p.m. on March 25 at a Chevron station in Palmdale as part of a compliance check.
The cashier who was working at that time claimed to have been unaware how much the ticket was worth and handed over just $75, the store's manager Shamsun Nahar Islam said. Islam claims they only realized the ticket was worth $75,000 after the undercover agent left.
She said she realized the mistake and contacted the California State Lottery.
Video and photos were circulated during the weekend in what Islam said was an attempt to identify the man, turning what was a regular compliance check into an unusual situation for lottery officials. On Monday, the agency identified the man in the video as a compliance investigator.
"This is an odd situation," Russ Lopez, a deputy director with the state lottery, told the Los Angeles Times. "We don't want the public looking for a winner that doesn't exist."
A lottery spokesman said it appears the store kept the decoy ticket for 40 days before contacting the lottery, though they did not try to cash the ticket. Investigators are still attempting to determine whether the clerk's actions were accidental or deliberate.
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A receipt with a scanned lottery ticket's value is required to be provided to a winner, according to lottery rules. But no receipt was provided in this case, according to the Times.