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Lottery Worker Charged with Swiping Winning Tickets

May 27, 2005 – A Virgin Islands Lottery employee was charged with stealing two unsold winning lottery tickets and cashing them in, officials said Friday.
Janice George, 42, an auditor for the Virgin Islands Lottery on St. Thomas, was arrested and charged Thursday with embezzlement, grand larceny and obtaining money by false pretense, said Richard Velazquez, the lottery's enforcement director.
George is accused of stealing 50 unsold tickets Nov. 24, 2003, picking out two winning tickets — one for $1,000 and another worth $250 – and then collecting the prize money, Velazquez said.
George returned the money when confronted about the theft, Velazquez said.
George, who has been suspended without pay, faces 10 years in prison if convicted.
In March, two other lottery employees were charged with falsifying tickets and embezzling money from the St. Croix lottery office.
The government re-filed 24 charges against Rita Sweeney, 55, and Angelita Brown, 45, on Friday after dropping them due to technical difficulties earlier this month. Prosecutors declined to explain why the charges had been dropped.
The women were alleged to have stolen more than $35,000 from the lottery between 2000 and 2002. They could be sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $10,000 if convicted.
The Virgin Islands lottery was launched more than two decades ago. In
recent years, it has failed to live up to its goal of helping to fund public schools.
Lottery officials blame slow sales on the illegal sale of lottery tickets from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Lottery enforcement officers began a crackdown in November on illegal lottery vendors that led to the five arrests. A similar crackdown in 1997 led to 40 arrests.
For eight years, the Virgin Islands lottery has been unable to meet its legal obligation to pay 25 percent of its collected revenue to the public treasury.
Last year it registered an estimated $330,000 loss and now owes the government some $4 million.

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