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posted: 5/1/2012 5:32 PM

Sheriff: Elgin woman falsely claimed $656 million jackpot

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  • Leandria Williams

    Leandria Williams

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An Elgin woman is facing felony charges alleging she fraudulently claimed to have a winning ticket for the record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot March 30.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on Tuesday announced 28-year-old Leandria Williams is now charged with attempted theft and forgery to go along with a wire fraud charge filed after her initial arrest about a week ago.

Williams is accused of buying online lottery tickets about eight minutes after the March 30 drawing and manipulating the documents to make it look like she had purchased the tickets before the winning numbers were chosen.

Sheriff's police said Williams went to the lottery claims office in Des Plaines on April 4 with the falsified ticket trying to claim a share of the $656 million jackpot. Three winning tickets for the record jackpot were sold nationwide, but none in the Chicago area, officials said.

Investigators met with her April 16 and uncovered the ruse, according to sheriff's police. She was arrested and later posted 10 percent of a $10,000 bond. Her next court date is set for May 9.

This is the first time someone has used the Illinois lottery's new online purchasing system to attempt to "game" the lottery, Dart said. Online sales began March 25.

"The lottery's investigative and legal units acted promptly and decisively in assisting Cook County sheriff's police in this case," said Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones. "Any individual whose actions compromise the integrity of the lottery -- or any of its games -- will face similar, swift action. The integrity of the lottery demands nothing less."

Lottery officials said there have been a "handful" of occasions over the years when someone has tried to alter a losing lottery ticket to make it appear as if it was a winner. The most common deception is to alter a non-winning scratch-off ticket, said lottery spokesman Mike Lang.

"They've never been successful," Lang said. "We have a 100 percent foolproof way of safeguarding against such frauds."

All lottery tickets are encoded with information that helps lottery officials determine whether they are winning tickets or not, Lang said.

Lang added that there have been instances in which retailers may have been duped into paying out winnings for altered tickets, but that's only because they didn't follow "proper procedures," Lang said. Retailers pay out winning tickets of up to $600, according to the lottery's website. A ticket with winnings worth more than $600 is paid out by the state lottery office.

Having the security protocols for online lottery ticket purchasing tested so soon after its introduction helps highlight the "stringent safeguards" the lottery has in place, Lang said.

"In some ways it is good that we're getting the word out," Lang said. "And that we will utilize them when necessary."

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