NEW ORLEANS - A woman was almost scammed out of her lottery winnings by the convenience store where she bought the ticket, according to Louisiana Lottery officials. But a simple step helped authorities find the rightful winner.
Fong Kwok hasn't had a day off in four years. So when she found out she won $10,000 in the Louisiana Lottery she was ecstatic.
"That day I just was so happy," said Kwok, who owns Bamboo Restaurant in New Orleans East. "I could not believe winning."
Kwok's Mega Millions ticket matched four of the five white ball numbers, plus the yellow Mega Ball number in the April 13th drawing.
But Kwok said a worker at the nearby convenience store where she bought the ticket, Downman Center, first told her she won only $3.
Lottery officials said one of the men who owns the convenience store, Raed Alhindi, 31, tried to cash in Kwok's winning ticket last month.
Kwok could have been swindled out of her $10,000 win if she hadn't done one thing, said lottery officials. She always writes her name on the back.
Officials said Alhindi crossed off Kwok's name on the back of the lottery ticket and wrote his own instead. But using special technology, lottery officials were able to lift his pen marks to reveal Kwok's original signature. They eventually tracked her down.
Kwok said she often bought lottery tickets from the Downman Center convenience store. Now, Alhindi has been arrested and charged with trying to cash an altered lottery ticket. Each of his four stores have been suspended from selling lotto tickets.
"I could not believe [it]," said Kwok. "Because every time I go over there, they are very nice."
But while Kwok is surprised, she's not angry.
"I [am] just very happy I got my money," said Kwok. "But that's all. That [is] okay."
Kwok bought another Mega Millions ticket Thursday. She said she'll always sign the back.
Her next order of business is to finally take a vacation.
"I need to go to Disneyland or SeaWorld," smiled Kwok.
Kwok plans to cash in her lottery ticket Monday at the lottery office in Metairie. No one from Downman Center convenience store was able to comment. Altering a lottery ticket is a felony. Alhindi could face up to 20 years in prison.