Clerk Accused of Taking Customer's Lotto Winnings

Investigators say they believe a 25-year-old convenience store clerk claimed $1 million in lottery winnings that belonged to a customer and then disappeared.

Investigators said they believe Pankaj Joshi may have fled to Nepal, his native country. Joshi had worked at the Lucky Food Store in Grand Prairie for five years.

Joshi is accused of stealing a winning lotto ticket in May from a 67-year-old man who was a regular customer. The man had come in to redeem three tickets. Joshi allegedly told the customer that he'd only $2, investigators said.

Joshi then cashed in the winning Mega Millions ticket in Austin on June 25, investigators said.

"Mr. Joshi then moved that money around between two other banks and went on a trip and returned to the Dallas area, and right now, we don't know where he is," Detective Billy Petty said.

Authorities have recovered more than $365,000 of the money from some of Joshi's bank accounts, investigators said.

When Joshi quit his job at the store and claimed the $1 million lottery jackpot, Joshi's co-workers grew suspicious and contacted the Texas Lottery Commission.

"An investigation officer came down here and he said, 'Why do you think that he's not the winner?' And we told him that he never plays the ticket," said Nick Hirani, store manager.

Joshi's co-workers said they never saw him play the lottery, according to a search warrant affidavit.

A Travis County grand jury indicted Joshi in September on one count of claiming a lottery prize by fraud. The charge is a second-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison if there's a conviction.

There was no immediate word on whether or not the customer who bought the winning ticket will get his payout.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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