Store Clerk Arrested After Submitting $3 Million Lottery Ticket Left by Customer

A clerk in a Massachusetts liquor store recently tried to collect on a $3 million dollar lottery ticket.  The problem is that it was not actually her ticket but was instead a ticket that had been left behind by a customer.  The lottery officials were a little skeptical about things because of the odd condition of the ticket, it had been partially burned, and the woman and her boyfriend were observed arguing in the ticket drop off location about splitting the money.  Due to the red flags that were raised, the lottery officials contacted the state police and requested an investigation before agreeing to pay out the money.

The police obtained surveillance video from the store and saw that a many had purchased the winning ticket, but the man was more focused on taking the chips that he also purchased instead of taking the ticket.  The clerk had claimed that she purchased the ticket.  The police confronted the clerk with the video, at which point the clerk’s story alleging changed, and she now stated that she had “inadvertently obtained the winning ticket.”

Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property

In Pennsylvania, a person that finds lost property has a legal obligation or duty to try and get the property back to the owner. Under 3924 of the Crimes Code, titled Theft of Property Lost, Mislaid, or Delivered by Mistake, a “person that comes into control of property of another that he knows to have been lost, mislaid, or delivered under a mistake as to the nature or amount of the property or the identity of the recipient is guilty of theft if, with intent to deprive the owner thereof, he fails to take reasonable measures to restore the property to a person entitled to have it.”  Basically, if a person takes control or possession of lost, mislaid, or property delivered by mistake, the person must “take reasonable measures” to get the property back to the owner.  For example, if a person finds a wallet at a store, the person can take the wallet to Customer Service.  If the person finds a phone on the street, the person could take the phone to the local police station and surrender it.  The severity of a Pennsylvania theft charge is often based upon the value of the item that was taken.

I had this exact scenario in a State College theft case.  A Penn State student found a ticket that had been left behind.  This winning ticket was only worth $300.00, but the client was still charged with Theft of Lost Property.  The case was resolved via the ARD program, so the client will be able to have the charges dismissed and then expunged from his record.  While there is no long term damage to the client, he had to take a few lumps to get the dismissal.

Leave Lost Property Alone

In most situations, a person may want to avoid the entire theft of lost property issue by simply leaving the lost property alone.  If the person never takes control or possession of the property, then the person never has a legal obligation to return the property.  If the person grabs the property, the person must now take reasonable steps to return the property.