by Max Brantley
You can't beat the lottery even when you get the tickets free. Read on.
I reported back in May that an investigation was nearly completed and a plea was expected shortly in the case of a theft involving a former employee of the Arkansas Lottery.
Took a little longer than expected.
Arkansas Lottery Director Bishop Woosley has a news conference scheduled at 3:30 p.m. today to discuss the news that Remmele Mazyck, 34, a former $76,000-a-year security official for the lottery, has entered a plea in federal court today to a scheme in which he stole almost $478,000 in lottery tickets between 2009 and 2012. The loss is covered by insurance, but Mazyck is committed to pay restitution up to $482,671, for tickets and store commissions, his attorney John W. Hall told me. But he has no resources to pay that amount.
Woosley told me in May that Maczyk had been placed on leave last October and then fired in November for failing to appear at a meeting on his work. Under the circumstances at the time, Woosley was only able to confirm his firing for failure to appear, not the underlying subject of the planned discussion. He declined at the time to confirm my tip that a plea bargain was in the offing related to ticket theft.
The case against Mazyck has proceeded against him under seal in federal court since Nov. 15.
Hall said Mazyck, when confronted, explained to authorities how he'd exploited a loophole in security to conduct the scheme. He checked out packs of promotional scratch-off tickets at the warehouse and used them himself, rather than dispensing them free as a promotional tool. He cashed $478,000 in winnings on the tickets at various retailers, always in amounts below the level that required presentation at the lottery office. He reinvested most winnings in more lottery tickets. He identified winning tickets by scanning them with a lottery scanning device to find winners, the basis for his wire fraud charge because the scans went through an out-of-state computer. He faced a money laundering count, too, for depositing more than $10,000 in cash into his bank account on one occasion. He'll have to file an amended income tax return to reflect the winnings and that will create a huge tax liability for him. The restitution will be set out in $100 periodic repayments.
High irony. Mazyck, like most lottery players, didn't end up with much money. He spent up his winnings trying to buy more winning tickets. "It's a cautionary tale, I suppose to gambling addiction," Hall said. "Even though you win $478,000 playing the lottery, you can piss it all right away." Hall said Mazyck also invested some money in the stock market, but lost on those investments, too. Hall said the plea was hurried this afternoon so Mazyck could be present for the expected delivery of his first child this weekend. He's been allowed to remain free until sentencing and faces punishment under the guidelines of 37 to 46 months in prison. He's living in South Carolina.
Hall contends the lottery came out ahead, after a fashion. Mazyck spent up his winnings on lottery tickets and insurance will pay for the nominal losses.
Woosley talked at some length at the news conference on how the scheme came to light — a retailer reported cashing of unactivated tickets — and Arkansas Business provides those details.
Mazyck came to Arkansas from the South Carolina lottery. He was hired by Ernie Passailaigue, the former Arkansas lottery director, who also came from South Carolina. He was an assistant to security director Lance Huey.
The criminal information was unsealed late today.
Also, the plea agreement was unsealed, but not a later modification.
The Lottery Commission release on the case:
Arkansas Lottery Commission Director Bishop Woosley announced today that former Arkansas Lottery Commission employee Remmele Mazyck pled guilty to crimes which relate to the theft of lottery tickets from the Arkansas Lottery Commission.
The charges allege that between November 2009 and October 2012, while employed as Deputy Director of Security, Mazyck used his position of authority to steal lottery tickets and cash them undetected. Mazyck cashed 22,710 tickets for a total $478,073. Director Woosley first learned that this activity occurred on October 26, 2012. He placed Mazyck on administrative leave that day and terminated Mazyck's employment on November 14, 2012.
ALC is fully insured for the amount of the theft through the Arkansas Fidelity Bond Trust Fund administered by the Arkansas Governmental Bonding Board and a supplemental insurance policy which ALC purchased following start-up. Assuming our claim is approved under both policies, the ALC will sustain no monetary loss from this theft. Further, if the claim is approved, no Arkansas student will be denied the opportunity to have their college education paid for by through use of Arkansas Scholarship Lottery funding.
In addition, our retailers sustained no loss as a result of the action of Mazyck. All cashes were paid by our retailers in good faith. In fact, without the diligence of our retail partners, Mazyck may still be here at the lottery stealing tickets.
ALC has evaluated and will continue to evaluate and strengthen its processes and procedures as necessary to ensure that this does not occur in the future.