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Real winner of $12.5 million jackpot sought in Canada

/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Canadian police are searching for the rightful owner of a $12.5 million lottery ticket after charging a family with stealing the jackpot in 2003.

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. said it has a system in place that may help find the real winner.

“We don't know the identity of the person who bought the ticket because, historically, lottery in Canada has been anonymous,” said OLG chairman Paul Godfrey in an interview after the OLG issued an appeal to find the real winner Wednesday.

“But if someone can come in and tell us everything we already know about the ticket, down to the last detail, there's a good chance we're looking at the rightful owner," he said, noting the winner could be a group rather than one individual.

OLG said the buyer purchased a winning Super 7 ticket that won a free ticket that won the $12.5 million jackpot on the Dec. 26, 2003, draw.

Ontario Provincial Police on Tuesday laid out criminal charges against Kathleen Chung, 29, Jun-Chul Chung, 60, and Kenneth Chung, 28, OLG said in a statement. Kathleen Chung claimed the winning ticket as her own in 2004, OLG said. The file was turned over to Ontario police 2006. OLG said someone other than Kathleen Chung purchased the ticket that generated the free play that won the $12.5 million jackpot, OLG said.

The three were released on a total of $700,000 bail after a Wednesday afternoon court appearance, the Toronto Star reported.

Police are in the process of seizing what they believe to be more than $10 million in assets, including two homes, five luxury vehicles, three commercial properties and bank accounts, the Star said. 

Police allege that a father and son stole lottery tickets, including a free play ticket that should have been given to a customer, at the Variety Plus store where they worked in Burlington.

Godfrey said a computer analytic tool called Data Analysis and Retrieval Technology allows lottery officials to review billions of transactions within a matter of seconds to recognize patterns that identify potentially fraudulent behavior or claims.

Godfrey said this is what OLG knows:

  • An original Super 7 ticket was purchased at That's Entertainment store at 353 Lake St. in St. Catharines in 2003.
  • This ticket was validated at Variety Plus, 3500 Dundas St., at Walker's Line in Burlington and won a free ticket for the Dec. 26, 2003, Super 7 draw.
  • That free ticket won the $12.5 jackpot.
  • The customer purchased and validated tickets in St. Catharines and/or Burlington on certain days and times.
  • The customer lived in one city and worked in the other in 2003.
  • The customer played Super 7 regularly but also played other lottery games at the same time.
  • Based on the dollar amount spent and the number of tickets purchased, the potential exists for this to be a group play.

Godfrey said the lottery will reimburse the legitimate winner for the full jackpot amount plus interest.

The uncovering of the jackpot fraud was part of a larger investigation.

Since 2007, hundreds of wins have come under question, and the Ontario police have taken on a key role in the investigations, CBC news said. 

A forensic audit released in February 2009 revealed that lottery retailers, employees and their families have taken home $198 million in prizes over the past 13 years.