Casino ticket proves bogus

He won a million bucks and he had the scratch-off ticket to prove it. But he still hasn’t collected the dough.

In fact, the Detroit man is under investigation for an alleged forgery police say was so clever, it took a microscope to confirm.

MotorCity Casino officials won’t comment, but the east-side man is accused of presenting a winning ticket April 18 during a “Scratch-N-Win” promotion offered to frequent players.

State police are trying to determine whether the man worked alone, or is part of a larger conspiracy to rip off the casino. Other fake scratch-off winners for smaller amounts were presented earlier at the casino, and at least one was paid.

The Free Press is not identifying the man because he has not been charged. He would not comment at his home Wednesday and his attorney did not return a call. The Michigan State Police said the investigation continues, but they would not comment further.

The promotional contest ran March 17 through April 20, police said. Each card had 25 squares. Winning players had to scratch off five squares to reveal five identical money bag symbols. Another scratch box revealed the cash prize.

Police said the man presented the ticket and then signed verification and tax documents. Casino officials told him he would be paid after the ticket was verified.

Such big winners routinely undergo microscopic examination, police said. A forensic examiner in Phoenix, Ariz., determined that the ticket had been altered. Two tickets were pieced together, giving the appearance that just five winning squares were scratched off, police said.

Keith Kopher, chief enforcement agent for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said he wasn’t surprised someone tried to pass off a bogus winner.

He said Nevada casinos don’t use scratch card promotions, but added, “There’s all kinds of counterfeiting going on out there.”

Chips, tokens and slot machine credit slips all have been doctored in Nevada.

“If it’s money, a crook’s going to try to take it,” Kopher said.

David Schwartz of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’ Gaming Studies Research Center said giving gamblers something they can take from the casino and alter into a winning ticket encourages cheaters.

“When you have gambling, there’s always the potential for some kind of fraud, especially when you have a scratch ticket,” he said.

But Stepheni Schlinker, spokeswoman for the Michigan Lottery Commission, said few people have tried altering lottery scratch-offs. And those scam artists failed, she said, because the state lottery relies solely on bar codes to identify winning tickets. So even if a player turns in a card with the right winning combination, the state’s computer will reject it if its serial number does not match the lottery’s list of winners.

“We don’t even look at what’s on the ticket when we validate,” Schlinker said. “The bar code is king.”

The tickets used in the Motor City Casino promotion did not have that feature.

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