$1 Million Winner Says Texas Lottery Owes Him

     AUSTIN (CN) – A man from El Paso claims the Texas Lottery Commission refuses to pay him his $1 million prize, though it acknowledged that the store clerk who cashed in the winning ticket had stolen it from him.

     Willis Willis claims that he’s not the only one who’s been cheated by corruption in the Texas Lottery: “Fault for that lies with the Texas Lottery and GTECH, which lets their vendor/clerks play and do not require them to register,” Willis says in his complaint in Travis County Court. “When the vendor clerks roll through Austin to cash in tickets, the Lottery Commission and GTECH, because they have not registered their own vendors, do not recognize or investigate the very fox they placed in the henhouse.”
     Willis claims that “The Texas Lottery is and has been plagued by theft and corruption from store clerks, vendors/agents of the lottery, who know and exploit open back doors in lottery security, taking millions of dollars every year. The Texas Lottery Commission has known of the problem for years but has done nothing to lock the back door. Instead, lottery clerks, anonymous to the commission and the public, continue to snatch dreams and siphon funds.”
     Will says Texas Lottery vendors handle a “staggering” amount of money each year – selling 4.6 billion tickets last year alone. GTECH gets $100 million a year to run the lottery for Texas, according to the complaint.
     Willis says he bought what would prove to be a winning lottery ticket on May 29, 2009, at a Lucky Food Mart in El Paso. He says he had played the lottery for years, “handing the vendor his money, and later handing the vendor the ticket to have it checked on the lottery machine in a manner designed, offered and controlled by the lottery.”
     This time, he says, his “tangible ticket” was “a million-dollar winner. But the lottery vendor, Lucky Food and Pankaj Joshi, after checking the tangible ticket on the lottery machine, neglected to let Willis know. Instead, that vendor cashed Willis’ dream and took Willis’ ticket to Austin where Joshi exploited the hole in commission security and the lottery commission and GTECH mistakenly paid him Willis’ million dollars.”
     After receiving a tip that “security had been breached and the wrong person paid, the lottery investigated and determined Mr. Joshi, the vendor, had stolen Willis’ ticket,” the complaint states. Willis says the Travis County District Attorney indicted Joshi for theft “some of the funds were recovered. But incredibly, even after its vendor was indicted for the theft, the lottery still maintains that Joshi is the ‘winner’ and refused to pay Willis the money he is owed.”
     Willis says he has been “stonewalled at every turn.” He wants his $1 million, and damages for mental anguish, expenses and other claims. Defendants include the Texas Lottery Commission, GTECH, Lucky Food Store No. 2 and Pankaj Joshi.
     Willis is represented by Randy Howry with Howry, Breen & Herman LLP of Austin.

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