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Canada police charge lottery 'winner' with fraud in ticket scam

Dec 19, 2007, 12:47 pm

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Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation

Canadian police accused a Toronto-area man who claimed a C$5.7 million (US$5.7 million) prize in a national lottery of fraud, the first charges in a year-long probe of Ontario lottery-ticket retailers.

Hafiz Zulwarnain Malik, 60, of Mississauga, Ontario, was charged with two counts of fraud and one count of theft over C$5,000 after cashing the winning ticket in January 2005. Police say the ticket actually belonged to a group of four people from the Toronto area who were defrauded out of their winnings.

The investigation was sparked by Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s "Fifth Estate" program, which reported in October 2006 that Ontario lottery clerks and retailers won prizes exceeding C$500,000 almost 200 times in seven years, far more often than the 57 victories that might be expected based on odds.

Jeffrey Rosenthal, a statistician and author of "Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Possibilities," told the CBC the odds of 200 such wins among 60,000 lottery retailers over seven years were one in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, or a 1 with 48 zeroes.

Some retailers were accused of giving customers a free ticket or a small cash prize, when the ticket actually won a prize in excess of C$500,000. The ticket retailer, or a family member, would later claim the real prize, CBC reported.

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., which runs the provincial lottery system, has changed the rules and now requires ticket buyers to sign their ticket when cashing a prize.

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