Store owner charged with stealing winning $5.7M lottery ticket

Wednesday, December 19
CBC News
A former convenience store owner was charged Wednesday with stealing a winning lottery ticket and fraudulently claiming $5.7 million in prize money.

Ontario Provincial Police charged 60-year-old Hafiz Zulqarnain Malik, of Mississauga, Ont., with two counts of fraud and one count of theft. Additionally, about $5 million worth of his assets were seized or frozen by police, including his Mississauga home, bank and investment accounts and three vehicles.

Lottery customers are advised to sign the backs of their tickets to prevent potential fraud.
Malik, at the time operating a convenience store in Toronto, allegedly stole the ticket from a group of four Toronto co-workers in June 2004. He cashed it six months later, in January 2005.

At a news conference in Toronto Wednesday, OPP Chief Supt. Bob Goodall said Malik defrauded the real winners when they "simply entrusted him with the validation of a lottery ticket."

Malik was to appear in court Wednesday for a bail hearing.

The charges were the result of an investigation launched in July, following a complaint to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, said lead investigator Det. Insp. Paul Beesley.

The charges against Malik are part of a "broader OPP investigation into fraudulent Ontario lottery game prize claims by Ontario lottery retailers and employees. The investigation focuses on 'insider wins' between 1999 and 2006," said the police news release.

Beesley said police were still investigating four other lottery-related cases that involved large amounts of money.

The charges come months after Ontario's ombudsman slammed the Ontario Lottery Corporation for ignoring allegations of widespread fraud by retailers who were winning a statistically improbable number of prizes.

In his report, Andre Marin accused the corporation of "coddling" ticket sellers and playing "games" with customers who complained they had been cheated of their jackpots.

Scandal prompted probes, changes across country
Marin said confidence in Ontario's lottery system was shattered because the corporation lost sight of its obligation to the public in a desire to maintain a good relationship with retailers.

The scandal broke in October 2006, when it was revealed 78-year-old Bob Edmonds of Coboconk was cheated out of $250,000 in winnings by a lottery retailer.

The Ontario scandal has prompted similar investigations ? and changes in procedures ? at lottery corporations across the country.

The OLG's chief executive officer, Kelly McDougald, was scheduled to hold a news conference later Wednesday.