Signing the back of his ticket protected a Louisiana Lottery player from theft and derailed an attempt at fraud.

Jerry Frith of Denham Springs claimed a $2,300 Lotto prize Monday at Lottery headquarters in Baton Rouge after an investigation by Lottery security officials.

The 51-year-old's ticket matched five of the six winning numbers in the Aug. 15 Lotto drawing, but he may never have received the money if not for the watchful eye of Lottery employees.

Sherrie Gomez, a woman Frith described as a "now former friend," tried to claim the $2,300 prize as her own at Lottery headquarters in September after Frith gave her some of his Lottery tickets to check for winnings after the drawing. However, Lottery employees were tipped off to the possibility of fraud when they saw that the original signature on the back of the ticket had been signed over with her name in permanent marker. All winning tickets worth more than $600 must be claimed at a Lottery office.

Lottery security was called in to investigate. Utilizing sophisticated equipment, Frith's original signature was revealed, signifying him as the rightful ticket owner.

The Lottery contacted Frith, who confirmed that he regularly purchases Lottery tickets and always signs the back. "I was amazed how [the Lottery] went out of its way to find me and I'm very grateful," said Frith. "This is my first time winning!"

The criminal matter has been turned over to the Baton Rouge Police Department. 

"We go to great lengths to protect our players and ensure the public's trust," said Lottery President Rose Hudson. "Signing the back of their tickets is the single most important thing our players can do to demonstrate ownership and prevent theft," she said. "Our Sign it Now message and other consumer tips are obviously working-because Mr. Frith signed the back of his ticket, we were able to do our job to deter theft."

The Lottery offers players numerous consumer protection tips, in addition to signing the back of tickets. Customer display units located at every Lottery retailer reveal the value of a ticket after being scanned and instruct winners to visit a Lottery office if a prize is over $600, the maximum amount that can be claimed at a retailer. Players can also ask for a print-out of this message, called a validation receipt. More information can be found on the Player Protection section of the Lottery's website.