Stolen scratch-offs a bad bet for New Brighton gas station clerk

  • Article by: JOY POWELL
  • Star Tribune
  • January 9, 2013 - 9:16 PM

Michael R. Trembley's luck has run out.

He's been charged in Ramsey County District Court with lottery fraud after he allegedly stole scratch-off tickets from the New Brighton gas station where he worked and cashed in winning numbers for $18,557, according to investigators who combed through the clerk's bank account.

The lottery-fraud charge is unusual, and the amount stolen is fairly substantial as far such thefts go, said Doug Wills, security chief for the Minnesota State Lottery.

Only 25 to 30 suspects get busted for lottery fraud each year in Minnesota, typically after stealing from their employers.

In Ramsey County, four people have been charged with lottery fraud in the past year, with two of them convicted, one placed in a court diversion program and now, Trembley, charged on Jan. 3, said county attorney's spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein.

Trembley, 48, of Shoreview, swiped thousands of dollars with at least 40 scratch-off tickets that he stole, according to video surveillance in the BP station at 1201 Silver Lake Road, a criminal complaint alleges.

Wills said once in a while someone tries to counterfeit by altering numbers on the lottery tickets, which have a number of codes and safeguards, but most lottery fraud is actually employees who are stealing from smaller ma-and-pa stores that are not checking inventory and proceeds daily, as the big stores and chains do.

It's up to the retailers to safeguard those lottery tickets and funds, he said, and it is the retailer who must field the losses for not stopping employee theft.

"Human nature is human nature," Wills said. "You have a high turnover in your clerks, and some are good and some are not so good."

The complaint charging Trembley alleges this:

Last June, Jim Doyle, the owner of the BP Station at 1201 Silver Lake Road, a main route in New Brighton, called police to report discrepancies between the amount of cash being paid out for winners in his store compared to the amount of tickets actually sold.

Police watched a BP video given to them of Trembley working the afternoon shift, and he can be clearly seen scratching off about 40 tickets for larger values, rather than smaller values, without paying for them.

He only scratched off the barcode. Then he checked the tickets against the state lottery computer and when he hit a winner, would put those in a pile on the cash register.

"During the end of his shift," the complaint says, "the defendant appeared to add up the winning lottery printouts and used a calculator on the counter. He then removed an amount of cash from the register and put the cash in his pocket."

Trembley later told investigators that he'd been doing this since February, depositing thousands in his bank account, though he wasn't certain exactly how much.

He earned $9.48 an hour as a clerk but had deposited at least $13,000 in cash, admitting most of it came from taking the lottery winnings, the complaint states.

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038

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