A lottery winner nearly missed out on a $4.5 million prize after a shop assistant allegedly stole his ticket and conspired to claim the jackpot for themselves.
Carly Nunes, 23, allegedly held onto a customer’s lottery ticket while working as a cashier at a US liquor store in January, reports the US Sun.
The charges come after a lengthy four-month investigation led detectives to video footage that revealed the real winner, Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz said.
Ms Nunes was working at the store in Lakeville, Massachusetts, 68km south of Boston, when a customer came in and bought two Massachusetts State Lottery Quick Picks for the Mega Millions lottery, two for the Mass Cash lottery, and a large bag of barbecue potato chips, the District Attorney said.
He added a multiplier to his Mega Millions ticket to increase the prize, paid the $18 total, and then left.
Prosecutors say that another customer came in about 45 minutes afterwards, and noticed that the previous shopper never took the ticket out of the machine.
He allegedly ripped out the tickets and handed them to Ms Nunes to return to their rightful owner.
That night, it was announced that one of those tickets contained the winning numbers for a life-changing $US3 million ($A4.5m) prize.
According to prosecutors, the man who purchased the ticket briefly searched for them but concluded that they were lost.
It’s claimed that two days later, Ms Nunes, her boyfriend, and her co-worker Joseph Reddem drove to the Massachusetts State Lottery Headquarters to redeem the prize.
Lottery officials received the ticket but noticed that it was burned and torn.
Ms Nunes allegedly told them that she ripped it by mistake when she removed it from her wallet and scorched it after the ticket was left on a pipe.
Despite this, they happily accepted the ticket and informed the group that it was worth a huge prize, causing them to celebrate and hug one another.
Moments later, surveillance footage from the lobby captured a fight that broke out between Ms Nunes and her boyfriend when she told him that she would only give him $300,000 of the prize, it’s alleged.
The fight alongside the condition of the ticket gave cause for lottery officials to be concerned, and they told the group that they were going to take a second to investigate before handing over the prize.
The lottery teamed up with Massachusetts State Police and found surveillance footage from the liquor store that allegedly revealed the true owner and victim.
Ms Nunes eventually admitted that she didn’t buy the ticket herself, but told police that she had acquired it by other means, prosecutors say.
Officials came together to place flyers throughout the city and find the actual owner of the ticket.
According to Mr Cruz, the man didn’t know millions of dollars had been potentially stolen from him.
His ticket will be honoured by the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission, said Mr Cruz.
Ms Nunes has been charged with larceny from a building, attempted larceny, presentation of a false claim, and witness intimidation.
Mr Reddem was charged with attempted extortion.
This story appeared in the US Sun and is published with permission.