The Louisiana Lottery is cooperating with the Louisiana State Police on a criminal investigation into the apparent fraudulent redemption of an $800,000 winning ticket from the May 31 Powerball drawing.

On Sept. 8, the Louisiana Lottery received a complaint from a player who believed he had purchased the $800,000 winning ticket from the May 31 Powerball drawing. Lottery prize payment records indicated the ticket was claimed on June 23, 2008. 

The Louisiana Lottery's security department immediately conducted an extensive internal investigation. Based on that investigation, the Lottery contacted the state police and turned over the results of their inquiry to authorities. Because this is an active law enforcement investigation, the Lottery is referring all further questions to the state police.

"We assure our players that we take their concerns very seriously and value their trust, as demonstrated by our performance in this matter," said Dianne Brandon, vice president of sales for the Louisiana Lottery Corporation.

The Louisiana Lottery urges players to sign the back of their tickets immediately after purchasing, as a way to secure their interests and prevent theft.  The Lottery also trains retailers to immediately report any suspicions of fraudulent activity to the Louisiana Lottery Corporation and to law enforcement.

Players and retailers who wish to report security concerns may call the Louisiana Lottery Corporation at (800) 735-5825.

The following are common questions about the fraud prevention procedures at the Louisiana Lottery:
How can players protect themselves from Lottery ticket theft?
The simplest way for players to protect their interests is to sign the back of the ticket at the time of purchase. Anytime we are presented with a ticket that appears to be altered in any way, we conduct an immediate investigation prior to paying the claim. In fact in 2004, we were successful in locating the owner of a $100,000 winning ticket which was stolen by a retailer, who was convicted of the crime. In that case, the player had signed the back of the ticket, but his signature was scratched through by the parties attempting to claim it. This triggered an internal investigation which led us to the player and payment of his prize.

How often do you receive player complaints of theft?
By far, most of the cases we investigate involve theft of lottery tickets, where our retailers are the victim. We investigate about a half dozen player complaints a year, the majority of which are unfounded, such as when a player was mistaken about the amount of his winnings or believed he won when he did not. In every case, however, we take our players' concerns seriously and follow through to resolution.

If it is determined that the player is the owner of the winning ticket, will you pay his prize?
State law specifically prohibits the Lottery from paying a prize more than once. After a winning ticket is claimed, a complainant's only recourse is to pursue the individual believed to have stolen a ticket in a court of law. 

Do you verify the rightful ownership of every winning ticket?
Lottery tickets are "bearer" instruments, which means that we are obligated to pay the holder of a winning ticket presented for payment. We pay hundreds of prizes every month. It would not be feasible nor appropriate to investigate every winner who claims a Lottery prize.