ORLANDO, Fla. – A convenience store clerk has been arrested on charges of grand theft after investigators with the Florida Lottery said she stole a winning scratch-off ticket worth $1,000 during an undercover sting operation.
Krupali Shah, 36, was working at the Semoran Food Mart on Semoran Boulevard when she was arrested by law enforcement agents with the Florida Lottery and the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, records show.
According to an arrest report, an undercover agent posing as a customer brought in three non-winning scratch-off tickets, along with one winning ticket. Shah scanned all four tickets into a Florida Lottery computer terminal, which notified the clerk that the customer should be paid $1,000, records indicate.
However, state agents said Shah informed the undercover officer that none of the tickets were winners. She then kept the tickets and did not give them back to the undercover officer, a report states.
"I'm not that kind of person, sir. I have never done anything wrong in my life," Shah told a Local 6 reporter after bonding out of jail. "It was a stupid mistake from my end. I just moved from Georgia."
If convicted, Shah could face up to five years in prison.
The owner of the Semoran Food Mart, Brijesh Patel, said he immediately fired Shah after learning of her arrest. He said he has never heard complaints about Shah or any other employees, and is unaware if any other clerks have stolen winning tickets.
"That's my business," said Patel. "It hurts. It's a bad thing."
When Local 6 visited the Semoran Food Mart on Friday, one day after Shah's arrest, the scratch-off ticket dispenser was empty. A hand-written sign taped on the case read "Lottery system is down due to storm."
However, when questioned by Local 6, Patel admitted there was no storm. Instead, he said Florida Lottery officials had seized the tickets and computers after Shah's arrest. His license to sell lottery tickets has been temporarily suspended, said Patel.
A Florida Lottery spokesperson could not immediately provide details explaining why undercover officers were investigating that particular store.
"The Division of Security conducts undercover operations in an effort to remain vigilant and to ensure that we combat alleged illegal activity being conducted by Florida Lottery retailers," the agency wrote in a statement. "These operations are utilized to identify persons conducting criminal activity at locations where complaints have been received, locations where large quantities of high value tickets have been presented for claim by the same persons working within these locations, or for other security and integrity reasons."
Last year, Local 6 investigated Central Florida lottery retailers accused of claiming suspiciously high numbers of winning lottery tickets. Read that report here.