Florida

Clerk tells lottery winner his prize is only $5. She picked the wrong man to scam, cops say.

Do you trust your store clerk with your lottery ticket?

Maybe you’ve won a few hundred bucks or more. Will the employee tell you — or pocket the ticket while telling you it’s a loser?

That happened this week at a Fort Myers store, according to the Florida Lottery Commission. A Winn-Dixie Liquors employee is accused of keeping a customer’s $600 winning ticket —and paying him only 5 bucks.

Crystelle Yvette Baton was charged with larceny grand theft on Monday.

Baton, 42, was caught because she scammed the wrong customer, cops say.

The man wasn’t a customer — he was an agent working undercover for the Florida Lottery Commission’s security division.

When the undercover agent approached Baton with the winning ticket, she scanned it and realized it was worth $600. But instead of telling the man, investigators said she quietly pulled $5 out of her purse and told the man that was the “winning” ticket’s payoff.

Shortly after, the agent went back to the store to bust Baton. The winning ticket was found hidden in her notebook.

Seems the Lottery Commission makes these random visits to sellers to make sure the games are played properly.

“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,” Winn-Dixie customer Nadina Puzic told WBBH NBC2.

A reader, posting on the NBC2 website on Wednesday, said the scam isn’t unusual. “This is much more common than you would think. 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. A favorite trick, pretend to throw ticket away after telling someone they did not win anything, and then when they leave, pull it out of the trash and collect.”

Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie responded with a statement:

“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 posted a $5,000 bond on Tuesday. Her trial date is set for Feb. 26.

The lesson, even if it gnaws at you a bit for not trusting your fellow human: Make use of the Florida Lottery Commission’s electronic checkers that are placed on the counters near the lottery machine. You’ll save time, too, if there’s a line.

Follow @HowardCohen

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