Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods
Big Winners, Big Losers
Pankaj Joshi
Pankaj Joshi
Pankaj Joshi (pictured), a 25-year-old student at the University of Texas at Arlington, was working as a clerk in a Grand Prairie, Texas, convenience store in May 2009, when customer Willis Willis, 67, asked him to check if any of the batch of numbers he routinely played was a winner. Joshi took the tickets and, police allege, removed the $1 million-winning Mega Millions ticket amongst them, returning the rest and misinforming Willis that he was not a winner. In June, Joshi presented the winning ticket at the lottery claim center in Austin, collected approximately $750,000 by wire transfer after taxes and quit his job at the convenience store. Joshi told co-workers he was returning to his native Nepal to help his cousin with her perfume business, and disappeared.

Willis evidently did not notice the theft, or that one of his regular numbers had in fact won, but Joshi's supervisor became suspicious in July when he was notified by the lottery that his store had sold a million-dollar ticket—and that the winner had been one of his clerks whom no one had ever seen playing the lottery. The supervisor informed police, who began an investigation which uncovered the strong likelihood that the ticket had indeed been Willis'.

In September 2009 Joshi was indicted on one count of claiming a lottery prize by fraud. Officials were able to identify several bank accounts Joshi had not yet drained and freeze over $365,000 pending the outcome of the trial, but Joshi had vanished completely. Unless he is located or appears, Joshi will be tried in absentia to clear the way for Willis to recover the remaining money, but a trial date has not been set. Lottery officials had no comment, but their counsel maintains that they were correct to pay out the award to an apparent uncontested winner.
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