When this liquor store cashier noticed that a customer walked up with a winning lottery ticket, she saw a way to make some quick cash. Once she saw how much he’d be getting, the cashier decided to scam the man and keep the cash for herself. But what she didn’t yet realize was that she was in for one major shock.
Crystelle Yvette Baton worked her usual Winn-Dixie liquor store shift on Gladiolus Drive in Fort Myers, Florida. It was a typical day when a customer walked up to her with a winning lottery ticket, who wanted to cash it in. Baton scanned the ticket, but as soon as she saw how much he was getting, she started scheming.
Baton’s terminal told her that the ticket prize was $600. The cashier instantly chose to scam the man out of his winnings, but whether this was a one-time thing or a regular practice was anyone’s guess. She pulled $5 from her purse and gave it to the customer and led him to think that this was his prize. The man took the cash and left. But Baton wasn’t necessarily in the clear.
Nadina Puzic, a Winn-Dixie customer who was interviewed by NBC2 said, “Anyone that is working in a customer service job, you think that they are doing what is in your best interest. I would be very upset if someone took that from me.” Obviously, any reasonable person would feel the same way. Fortunately, there are measures in place that are intended to prevent scams.
The Lottery Commission was there to ensure that all lottery games were played fair and correctly. But most importantly, they made sure that the official sellers were operating honestly and within the rules of the lottery. In fact, there are plenty of policies to protect customers from getting scammed.
The Commission had Express Check scanners installed in their retailers so that customers could check their own tickets. 7,076 self-service validation terminals are in place throughout Florida stores. In 2016, the Lottery commission added a Smartphone app so customers could scan their tickets and check to see what they’ve won. But if the technology isn’t available, the Commission has some suggestions.
For customers who’d rather avoid being scammed, the Lottery recommends watching the monitor as their ticket is canned and listening for the winning sound on the terminal. Keep in mind that clerks are required to keep the monitor visible for customers. But most lottery players are unaware of this, and the Commission added policies to address these features.
The customer walked back to the store after getting the $5 from Crystelle Baton. But instead of going there to complain, he went there to arrest her. The man was working undercover with the Lottery’s security division. He played a role in the integrity investigation, which randomly visits retailers to ensure they’re complying with the rules and regulations. Baton was in some serious trouble.
A search was conducted after Baton’s arrest, and the undercover agent’s ticket was located hidden in one of her notebooks. The cashier got charged with larceny, grand theft, which has a maximum penalty of 5 years behind bars. She posted a $5,000 bail and had her trial date set for February 26. But time in prison wasn’t the only consequence that she had to look forward to.
Winn-Dixie’s Jacksonville headquarters released a statement the moment they learned of the dishonorable incident: “We are taking this matter very seriously as the trust and safety of our customers is our highest priority. The associate’s employment has been terminated.” Baton stood a good chance of losing her freedom but had already lost her job. Then, someone came to her defense.
Amy Wetherby suggested that there were inaccuracies in the story when she commented on NBC2’s online article. According to her, Baton didn’t know how to check to see if the ticket was a winner because she just started working there. She supposedly told the customer to ask someone else for help because she couldn’t open the register. Wetherby’s claims were unverified, but other users weren’t convinced by what she was saying.
Baton’s actions were suspicious according to most online commenters, especially since she took money from her purse to give to the man. The part about her starting a new job, as Wetherby claimed, may have been true. Her Facebook page showed she moved from North Kingstown, Rhode Island to Fort Myers last year. But often times, lottery scams are too common to assume she didn’t know what she did was wrong.
Something similar happened to the wife of a commenter on the NBC2 website. “She was told she had to take a $300 winning ticket to another store because they didn’t have enough money to cash it. We were then told that the ticket had been cashed at the first store,” he shared. After confronting the original clerk, she got her money. Then another commenter shared his personal experience too.
A WBBH reader said that: “This is much more common than you would think…A favorite trick, pretend to throw the ticket away after telling someone they did not win anything, and then when they leave, pull it out of the trash and collect.” He also shared how you can prevent getting scammed.
The commenter added: “I put my name on the back always, and always notice when the cashier checks the back before she determines whether it won something or not.” The Lottery Commission would seem to agree. “This will help prevent someone else from claiming a prize on your Florida Lottery ticket if it is lost or stolen, or if someone tries to scratch out, white out or change your signature.”