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Rightful owner of Powerball ticket finally gets $100,000 prize

Feb 4, 2004, 5:20 am

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A Morgan City, Louisiana  man whose $100,000 Powerball ticket was allegedly stolen finally got his money on Tuesday.

Charles Stone, 33, received the check at the Louisiana Lottery's Metairie office, eight days after state troopers arrested three people for allegedly altering the ticket and trying to claim the cash for themselves. A fourth suspect was arrested Jan. 29.

"I feel very lucky," said Stone, adding that he plans to "invest some, spend some" of his winnings.

Stone bought the ticket at a Houma convenience store, signed it and took it to a convenience store in his home town of Morgan City to see if it was a winner.

Four employees of that store allegedly told Stone it was not a winner, then scratched off his signature and replaced it with one of their own.

Hang Nguyen, 43, of Amelia, Nhat Nguyen, 25, of New Orleans, and Ngoc Tran, 46, of Amelia, were arrested when they tried to cash it in. Hoang Nguyen, 21, of Amelia, surrendered three days later.

The four were charged with altering lottery tickets and conspiracy to alter lottery tickets. State police said they each face sentences of 5-10 years in prison if convicted.

Kimberly Chopin, a state lottery spokeswoman, said officials suspected the ticket had been altered because the suspects took "great pains" to scratch off Stone's signature, apparently using pens with two different colors of ink.

The suspects were also unable to answer basic questions about the ticket: where it was bought and who signed it.

After a lottery drawing, Chopin said, a retailer checks to see if a customer's ticket is worth money by using a machine, which, if the ticket is worth more than $600, signals that the customer should go to a Louisiana Lottery office. The suspects allegedly saw that it was worth more than $600, but told Stone it was worthless.

Chopin urged lottery customers to sign their tickets after purchase, saying it was Stone's signature that allowed investigators to find him and inform him his ticket was a winner.

Customers can also ask the retailer for a receipt, to confirm the ticket's value, Chopin said.


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