Rash of scratch-ticket thefts strikes Vancouver

Lottery says chances low for stolen cards to pay off

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

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Folks itching for some cash might think that stealing scratch lottery tickets is a good idea. Police and lottery officials say otherwise.

There are at least four cases of thieves' stealing scratch tickets from local convenience stores in late July, according to Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp. Investigators arrested two men in connection with one of those cases. As those two might tell you, it's a crime that doesn't really pay off. That's because chances are slim a thief will be able to redeem winnings from a stolen scratch ticket.

According to Washington Lottery spokesman Arlen Harris, stores must activate rolls of scratch tickets before they are sold. Otherwise, they're "just paper," he said. If activated tickets are stolen, they are flagged in the lotto system. If someone tries to redeem one, a message will also pop up for the store clerk, saying, "Do not pay. Contact the lottery," Harris said.

That's exactly what happened in one of the local cases, he said.

Michael J. Vaiomounga, 27, was arrested July 29 on suspicion of one count of second-degree theft. According to court documents, Vaiomounga and an accomplice told police they entered a 7-Eleven store

at the corner of Northeast Andresen Road and 42nd Street on July 23, distracted the clerk and stole $1,310 worth of scratch tickets.

Scott E. Ferworn, 31, of Vancouver was arrested the night of July 30 as the alleged accomplice in the case based on surveillance footage, Kapp said.

There are three similar open cases in Vancouver, Harris said. It is unclear if they are related.

Also on July 23, a man entered the Shell station at 4911 N.E. 112th Ave. and took several tickets off a roll, police spokeswoman Kapp said. The clerk didn't see the man enter or exit.

Two thefts happened July 29. A man dropped a glass bottle in the 7-Eleven at 5101 N.E. 112th Ave. while another man grabbed a few tickets and left. Several tickets were also stolen that day from the 7-Eleven at 9411 N.E. 76th St. in the Sunnyside neighborhood.

Other local stores say it doesn't happen very often.

Harry Singh, owner of Handy Andy's, said scratch ticket theft hasn't really been an issue at his three Vancouver stores.

Carrie Kennedy, who has worked at the front counter of the S&S Quick Mart in Orchards for several years, hasn't had a problem either, she said.

Paul Suarez: 360-735-4522; http://twitter.com/col_cops; paul.suarez@columbian.com.