Lottery winners face charges in welfare fraud

Pueng Vongs
The Lookout

In two separate cases, authorities are investigating two Massachusetts men who allegedly took welfare benefits after pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lottery winnings, the Boston Globe is reporting.

James T. Casey Jr.  is accused of not reporting that he won more than $700,000  in  lotteries since 2009. During the same period, he collected more than $13,000 in benefits, state auditors found in the report. Frank Basile also allegedly collected $17,500 in benefits despite cashing in more than $316,000 in winning tickets over four years.

The two men face larceny charges.

Basile, a professional gambler, claims that after you factor in his gambling losses, his net income is so low, he is eligible for benefits.

"[State welfare officials] look at how much you make in a year, but I lost as much," he said to the Globe. "You win $100,000 and you lose $125,000."

State officials suspect Basile and Casey Jr. may be professional ticket cashers. They take others' winning tickets so the real winners can avoid paying taxes. Ticket cashers then offset the prize money with a stockpile of losing tickets. They get a percentage of the income.

Massachusetts State Lottery has grappled with the problem of the ticket-cashing scheme for years.

And sometimes these lottery winners end up getting back refunds. In 2011, Massachusetts tax officials took Clarance Jones to court to collect on winnings of more than $18 million. The state's Appellate Tax Board,  however, ruled that Jones was instead owed more than $200,000, which the lottery withheld.

Basile denies being part of the scheme. "They [state officials] can think whatever they want," he told the Globe.

This isn't the first time lottery winners were allegedly living on the dole.

In a highly publicized case in Michigan, a jackpot winner was charged with fraud for collecting food stamps and other benefits after winning a $735,000 jackpot. That case is still pending.

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