A Bellevue man won $300 on a scratcher ticket. But when he went to have it cashed by a cashier at a Casey’s General Store, the ticket vanished. Photo courtesy of Illinois Lottery.

BELLEVUE — Scratching an instant lottery ticket, Frederick Aziz got excited over landing a pleasant little jackpot.

The prize: $300. So, he headed to Casey’s General Store and turned over his ticket so a cashier could provide him his winnings.

Suddenly, however, the ticket “vanished.” It allegedly ended up in the cashier’s pocket. She has been charged with theft and fired by the store.

For Aziz? No ticket, so no $300.

“This is ridiculous,” vents Aziz, 37.

On March 22, at a Peoria service station, Aziz bought five $5 Merry Money tickets. Three were worth nothing. But one was worth $5, while another hit for $300.

Excited, he whipped out his mobile phone to take a picture to share with a friend in Texas.

He showed me the photo. The $300 ticket looks legit.

Aziz works as a roofer in Bellevue. So, the following day, right before work, as frequently is his habit, he stopped in the Casey’s at 6124 W. Plank Road in Bellevue — an easy place to cash his tickets.

When he approached the cashier, he handed over all five tickets, just in case he missed a prize.

“I just wanted to make sure,” he said.

He didn’t pay close attention because the cashier used the scanner before returning to him with cash in hand. But she returned with only one bill: a $5 bill.

Confused, Aziz asked, “Where’s my $300?”

“You didn’t give me anything like this,” the cashier responded.

They went back and forth for some time, then the manager arrived on the scene to try and work things out. The cashier advised Aziz to check on in on his own home to make certain he hadn’t left or dropped it there. Though certain of themself, he checked his residence anyway: no ticket. Later on that day, he tried Casey’s to find out if in some way the ticket had surfaced: no dice.

So, he took to Casey’s corporate office to file an official complaint. At this, the manager reviewed security video. After searching in the footage, the manager contacted the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office the following day, March 24.

A deputy visited the Casey’s to research. The manager basically confirmed Aziz’s version on how things went, based on a sheriff’s report.

“The manager … advised an employee had taken a lottery ticket valued at $300,” the deputy wrote in the report.

The deputy reviewed the safety video. The camera shows the cashier assisting Aziz in cashing the tickets. The camera also shows a ticket on the floor near the register; however, the camera didn’t show how the ticket got there.

(Aziz informs me he thinks the cashier spotted the winning ticket and allowed it to fall on the ground — “That wasn’t an accident,” he states — She did that so she could retrieve and cash it later.)

The camera later shows the cashier picking up the ticket and setting it by the register where she’s working. A little later, she puts ticket in the left pocket of her work shirt, the report notes. Shortly after that, her shift ends and she leaves Casey’s.

In the report, the deputy wrote that the manager “wished to pursue charges against (the cashier) for taking the ticket and asked if I could tell her she is no longer employed with Casey’s.”

The deputy asked why she would put “garbage” in her pocket instead of throwing it away. The deputy wrote in the report, “I told (the cashier) that there is a garbage (can) behind the counter where she could have thrown it away. But (she) did not have an explanation as to why she still put it in her pocket.”

At that, the deputy gave her a notice to appear in court on a misdemeanor count, theft under $500. The Journal Star does not typically print names of individuals charged only with misdemeanors, which is why the cashier is not named in this story. She did not return my request for comment.

At this, the deputy gave her a notice to look in the court on the misdemeanor count, thievery under $500. The Journal Star doesn’t typically print names of people billed just with misdemeanors, and that’s why the cashier isn’t named within this story. She didn’t return or request comment.

The Sheriff’s Office continues to attempt to track the ticket, for the Illinois Lottery. The lottery could track the ticket based on Aziz recollection, because of Aziz’s photo from it, together with specifics of time and place of purchase. On March 23 — the day Aziz visited Casey’s at approximately 6:30 a.m. — the ticket was scanned (as if checking for a winning ticket) at 8:25 a.m. in the Circle K at 3016 W. Farmington Road, West Peoria, four miles from Casey’s. Four hours later, the ticket was cashed for $300 at Mark’s Market, 2705 W. Farmington Road, West Peoria.

In court, if the cashier were found guilty, a judge could order her to pay Aziz $300. But my guess is, someone who steals a lottery ticket is probably not trustworthy enough to make amends.

For nearly a month, Aziz tried to get some form of reparations from Casey’s — $300 worth. But, despite verbal and electronic communications, he heard nothing regarding any reimbursement. One of Casey’s communication states the organization has been doing an “investigation” and “appropriate action continues to be taken.” That “action” isn’t specified: possibly it refers back to the cashier’s termination.

Still looking for his $300, Aziz called me. After rooting around, I contacted Katie Petru, director of communications for Casey’s corporate office, who issued this statement : “WWe apologize for Mr. Aziz’s experience. Casey’s immediately took action upon learning of the situation including initiating contact with law enforcement. This is an unacceptable experience for our guest, Mr. Aziz, and the alleged behavior is in violation of our policies and our Code of Conduct. We are continuing to work with local law enforcement and the Illinois Lottery as the matter is still under investigation.”

Well, that sounded good, but incomplete. As I mentioned to Petru, it seemed about $300 incomplete.

She considered that, then later responded, “We care about our guests and realize this was an unacceptable experience. Casey’s is sending $300 worth of gift cards to Mr. Aziz.”

Aziz — after almost per month of wrestling with Casey’s and only getting a response through me— was underwhelmed by the gift card gesture.

“They want me to give the money right back to them,” he vents.

He won’t do so.

“I don’t shop at Casey’s anymore,” he says. “But I know there are people in need, people who are hungry. I’ll give the cards to them.”

A version of this story originally appeared here.

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