Aug. 13, 2013 -- Lottery players in Arkansas are asking a judge to approve a class action suit, claiming they were short-changed after a former lottery official stole over 22,000 tickets, siphoning money from the game.
Two men in Arkansas filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas Lottery Commission, hoping to represent over 50,000 lottery ticket buyers who they say were harmed after a former employee stole tickets and received $478,073.
Remmele Mazyck, a former Arkansas Lottery Commission's deputy director of security, pled guilty last month to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering related to the alleged theft of 22,710 tickets. Charges against Mazyck allege that between Nov. 2009 and Oct. 2012 he used his position of authority to steal lottery tickets and cash them undetected.
The commission issued a press release on July 12 that states the commission director, Bishop Woosley, learned of this activity on Oct. 26, 2012, the day Mazyck was placed on administrative leave, followed by his firing on Nov. 14.
Mazyck allegedly scratched tickets to see if they were winners and cashed those worth less than $500, because prizes of $500 or more have to be cashed at a lottery office.
The original lottery law banned any employees from playing, but the law was changed in 2011 to allow workers to collect prizes of less than $500, the Associated Press reported.
The two men who filed the lawsuit, Raymond Brock and Rick Tomboli of Pulaski County, Ark., say the Lottery "repeatedly misrepresented to the public the number and cash value of the prizes still available in various scratch-off games," according to the court document filed last week in Pulaski County Circuit Court.
Jean C. Block, chief legal counsel with the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery said, "The Arkansas Lottery Commission does not comment on pending litigation. We will fight the lawsuit and move that it be dismissed."
Rick Tomboli, 47, one of the plaintiffs, said he has spent "thousands" of dollars on buying lottery tickets almost daily starting in 2012.
"I knew I wasn't winning, but I just didn't know why I wasn't winning until a man stepped up and stole over 22,000 tickets and won almost half a million dollars," Tomboli said.
Tomboli said he stopped playing the state lottery after he learned a lottery employee had stolen the tickets.
"I am finished. I am done," Tomboli said. "I will not purchase another ticket as long as I live," he said.
Tomboli said he does not want to harm the scholarship recipients who benefit from the lottery's profits. Arkansas Lottery's proceeds provide scholarships and grants to Arkansas citizens for in-state colleges and universities.
Mazyck, in a plea deal, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 when he is sentenced. The sentencing date will be set by the court at a later date. Mazyck assigned the tickets to retailers no longer selling tickets, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in the Eastern District of Arkansas, then log into the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery's software program to change the tickets from "Available-Virgin" to "Promotional." That activated the tickets and allowed Mazyck to cash any winning tickets.
According to the lawsuit, "after the lottery knew about the theft of scratch-off tickets, the lottery did not inform the buyers of scratch-off tickets that some of the winning tickets purported to be unclaimed and still available for purchase had been stolen by the lottery's Deputy Director of Security."
The plaintiffs are suing for unspecified damages and attorney fees for negligent misrepresentation, negligence, breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment.
"We just want the citizens of Arkansas who were purchasing scratch off tickets to find out what the true odds were and for them to be compensated for any misrepresentation that might have been made to them in purchasing tickets," said Lawrence Walker, attorney for the plaintiffs.
Walker hopes to learn during the legal discovery process how many tickets Mazyck did not cash.
The lawsuit filing specifies that over 50,000 purchasers belong in their legal class of individuals who purchased scratch-off tickets after Oct. 26, 2012. While only two plaintiffs are named, Walker said he has spoken to about 20 other plaintiffs who fit the class.
"I have some clients that have boxes and boxes of tickets," he said.