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Verifying California Lottery Winners

Nov 3, 2006, 7:06 am

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California Lottery

When there is a big jackpot winner in the California Lottery — officials won't say exactly how much the winnings must be — security officers ask a series of questions to make sure the person holding the ticket is the actual purchaser of the ticket.

Lottery officials won't tell me the exact questions, but they are along the lines of: When did you buy the ticket? Where did you buy the ticket? If the answers seem odd or out of place the security officer can decline to pay at that time and launch an investigation.

That's what happened with Bob Sehested's ticket. The clerk who is suspected of taking the ticket acted suspiciously and his answers weren't up to par. When lottery security looked into his background and found he was a clerk at a store that sold lottery tickets, red flags went up.

The Ventura County Star ( has an excellent internet site and since it was instrumental in finding Bob, the paper has been following the story closely. The Star is reporting the clerk's name is Sam Grair and he has now pled guilty to stealing the ticket. Prosecutor Howard Wise has told me he considers this an important case, although he will not talk about details until Grair is sentenced, which could happen in about two weeks.

The lesson here is to check your numbers against the numbers posted on the lottery site or printed on the winning number slips handed out at the retailers.

Finally, do store clerks with access to the tickets of lottery players win more often than other professions? I can't say for certain. The California Lottery does not ask the occupation of all of its winners and those who are questioned do not have to answer. However, at my request, lottery officials went through the statistics on winners of the past three years and found clerks were not in the top 10 professions stated in security interviews. The top three: retiree, real estate/mortgage and cooks.

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