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— Last week’s arrest in Little Rock of a Camden woman accused of trying to cash a doctored lottery ticket simply reinforced for Arkansas Lottery Commission Executive Director Ernie Passailaigue what he called a simple truth: The tickets are smarter than criminals.

Steal them, and they will never pay off.

Alter them and a simple check will tell a claim center employee whether it’s a real winner.

“You can do anything you want to one of these tickets,” Passailaigue said Tuesday.

“We’ll be able to tell. Each one has its own fingerprint.”

The lottery’s security chief, former Grant County Sheriff Lance Huey, was dismissive of the yellow $1 “3 Times Lucky” ticket Little Rock police seized a day earlier at the claim center on the ground level of the Union Plaza Building in downtown Little Rock.

“It’s pretty much obvious,” Huey said, looking at a color scan of the actual ticket, which now sits in the Little Rock police property room. “I mean, we trained on this, but this one was easy.”

He pointed his ball-point pen at a numeral 3 that did not line up properly in the three-by-three grid and said other elements were dead giveaways that the ticket was not a true $3,000 winner.

And not only was the 3 off-center and tilted, Huey said, but he could feel it raised higher than the face of the ticket as he ran his fingers over it.

“This is just the first of these that we’ve seen,” Huey said. “There will be more, I’m sure.”

Ruth Dennis, 56, of Camden walked in to the claim center last Monday with what she claimed was a winning ticket. The lottery employee thought the ticket was alteredand called police.

Officer Ricky Fortner wrote in his report that the ticket “was clearly tampered with.” He arrested Dennis on a fraud charge.

“Arrestee advised she does not know how the ticket got altered but we could just throw it away if it was no good,” Fortner wrote.

Dennis posted a $1,500 bond less than a half-hour after being booked into the Pulaski County jail. A man answering the phone Tuesday afternoon at Dennis’ home in Camden said she was out shopping with a friend.

She did not return a message left for her.

Passailaigue, who supervised the lottery operations in South Carolina before taking a similar job in Arkansas, said fraudulent tickets tend to be less of an issue than people - retail clerks especially - stealing tickets.

But even stolen tickets do not worry Passailaigue.

Each one is coded individually, and once they are reported missing, their codes are never activated, making them worthless pieces of colorful paper.

Such information could come as a surprise to whoever stole a lottery ticket display -1,324 tickets in all - from the Kum & Go convenience store in Jonesboro on Monday.

Jonesboro police were interviewing suspects and searching for more, according to a police report.

Passailaigue said he expected that the commission would keep an open file for each instance of fraud it found but did not plan to turn those records into a database it could analyze over time.

“It’s just not really a big enough problem,” he said.

News, Pages 9 on 10/28/2009

Print Headline: Arkansas lottery tickets thwart potential cheaters

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