Aug 5, 2016, 9:59 am
An employee at an Iowa lottery retailer is charged with stealing a winning $250,000 instant scratch ticket and working with her boyfriend and mother in a clumsy attempt to claim the prize, investigators said last week.
Prosecutors allege that Casey's general store employee Ashley Bosler, 20, found the winning ticket by scratching off a corner and scanning the bar code that confirmed it was a winner of the game's top prize.
She allegedly hadn't paid for the ticket and was too young to play, so she asked a co-worker to sign it and eventually her boyfriend, who tried to claim it. Suspicious lottery officials refused to approve the payout after noticing scribbling on the back of the ticket.
"In the excitement of finding a winner, different ideas may have been suggested about how they go about claiming it," Buena Vista County Attorney Dave Patton said, adding that it was unclear who all wrote on the ticket but that Bosler's co-worker wasn't charged.
An investigation ensued, and all three were jailed this week on felony charges.
Bosler and her boyfriend, 26-year-old Johnny Long Jr., were being held in the Buena Vista County Jail in Storm Lake. Both are charged with theft of a lottery ticket. Bosler and her mother, 42-year-old Sally Bosler, are charged with aiding and abetting. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted.
Sally Bosler told The Associated Press on Friday that she didn't believe she'd done anything criminal.
"They really thought they won," said Bosler, who was released from jail Thursday after posting bond. "I don't know why I'm in trouble. I had nothing to do with it. I gave them a ride to go cash this."
She said her daughter "freaked out" after scratching the winning ticket at work on June 14 because she didn't meet the lottery's minimum age requirement of 21. She then asked a co-worker to sign the ticket, which is legally required to claim the prize.
Investigators allege that Sally Bosler took $20 to her daughter so she could pay for the already-scratched ticket.
But the elder Bosler said didn't know how the money was used and would never give her daughter money to play the lottery. She said she drove her daughter and Long to a regional lottery office to cash the ticket three days later. She said her daughter and her boyfriend talked of buying a home and donating some of the money to charity.
Public defenders were assigned Friday to represent Long, a farm laborer, and Ashley Bosler. Both are scheduled for bond hearings Monday. Their attorneys didn't immediately return messages.
All three live in Sioux Rapids, a town of 800 that has been buzzing about the case since the Wednesday arrests.
Sally Bosler said her daughter was fired from Casey's general store amid the investigation. A Casey's spokesman didn't return messages seeking comment.
The risk of theft and fraud by lottery retailers has long been a concern. In a 2009 investigation, the Iowa Ombudsman's office found that "some retailers and store employees have been uncommonly lucky playing the lottery" and warned that the agency needed to do more to prevent and detect problems.
The report warned about "pickouts" in which store employees keep winning scratch tickets and sell losers to the public.
"It is definitely a phenomenon that's known about in the lottery security world," said Ombudsman investigator Bert Dalmer. "It sounds like the lottery has been keenly aware of that in this case, which is a good thing for players."
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